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Real Italian Food Vs. American Italian Food

Undeadsteak Jul 4, 2010 08:16 PM

What distinguishes these two, really? With Chinese food, it's a bit obvious, with nearly everything sweet, and Indian food tends to lack the spice it typically does, but what about Italian? What is considered American Italian and what's actually Italian?

  1. 3
    3sheets Jan 26, 2014 11:36 AM

    I Cajunized it. American Italian!

    1. 3
      3sheets Jan 26, 2014 09:41 AM

      I have started to substitute white rice for pasta.

      3 Replies
      1. re: 3sheets
        linguafood Jan 26, 2014 10:16 AM


        1. re: linguafood
          coll Jan 26, 2014 11:00 AM


          1. re: coll
            linguafood Jan 26, 2014 11:32 AM

            Maybe that post should be on the "what is fusion?" thread :-D

      2. t
        taurus30 Feb 6, 2012 04:58 PM

        I believe there is real Italian food in Italy, Italian American food here, and a bridge between the two, because of people like Mario Batalia, Lidia, Frankie Celenza and many chefs training in Italy only to cook and demonstrate Italian cooking here. There was a time when I ate most Italian food at home, but things have gotten way better in the restaurants. I still prefer my own "gravy" and meatballs though!!!

        1. p
          Puffin3 Feb 4, 2012 05:31 AM

          'Real Italian' food can only be found in 'real Italy'. Yes there are many dishes prepared in America made by first/second/third generation Italian immigrants that have a similar taste to the authentic dishes made in Italy BUT the soil/air/water/sea ect. helps grow things that no patch of soil in the US or visa versa can ever duplicate. If you've travelled throughout and eaten in Italy or any other country you understand. How often have we hears "yeah but it just doesn't taste the same". There's a reason for that. An Italian inspired pizza made in N.J. no matter how carefully the recipe is followed will never taste the same as the original from Sanremo So considering Italian food is an 'orange' and American Italian food is an 'apple there really isn't any "versus" only a 'compare' IMO.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Puffin3
            bob96 Feb 5, 2012 08:12 PM

            Italian American food is Italian food reshaped and reworked in America, originally by Italians to mete their own different social conditions--and often by Italian restauranteurs to please the palates of their mostly non-Italian clientele (most Italians erly on hardly ever ate Italian food out). Some Italian American food is superb, some horrific. And while we have canonical recipes with variants, we do not have academies and codes regulating "piatti tipici", either. We have local and regionaland family traditions instead. I love Italian food in IOtaly and now, incrasiongly, done well and true to form here, but temember that from 1924, when virtually all Italian immigration was shit down to the late sixties and early seventies, when fresh, but much smaller immigrant streams came again from Puglia, Sicily, Campania, and Calabria, there was precious little contact between the 2 food cultures. And the idea that one would judge, say, a St Louis fried ravioli or a San Francisco cioppino against an Italian counterpart (if there was one) was absurd. And by the way, Italians do eat polpette with pasta--in Puglia, and throughout the south, often baked in a richer version of pasta al forno.

            1. re: bob96
              meg3325 Feb 5, 2012 10:23 PM

              When ethnic food arrived in the U.S., it changed to serve the American tastes. All ethnic food becomes "Americanized" and becomes a shadow of its former self. There is no such thing as chop suey in China - it doesn't exist. It was invented in America, just like the fortune cookie. Italian wedding soup would get a blank stare in Italy.

              1. re: meg3325
                paulj Feb 5, 2012 11:45 PM

                Do you mean it can never become more real with the transformation, just a shadow? Is that true of any transnational transformation, or just the 'americanization'?

                I suspect that you are picking the worst examples, not the best.

                The many kinds of adaptations:
                - adaptation within the immigrant community to use new and different products (e.g. more meat among the Italians)
                - adaptation to suit the tastes of non-ethnic neighbors
                - cross fertilization across ethnic groups (terriyaki shops owned by Cambodians)
                - mass marketing, chains, and national brands
                - innovations by gifted individuals, possibly 2nd or 3rd generations.

                And if the immigrant community is large enough, it may actually end up preserving traditions that get lost in the homeland.

                1. re: paulj
                  huiray Feb 6, 2012 08:12 AM

                  There is also something to be said for considering the adapted/USAmericanized cuisine as a new cuisine, *when it has achieved maturity*. Early adaptations of "Chinese" cuisine in the USA, for example, I myself would tend to view as adulterations and gross mistreatment of actual "Chinese" cuisine, but as time went on it grew and matured, acquiring its own "conventions" and well-prepared and well-received dishes. The problem arises when folks equate the two and think that Chinese-American cuisine IS the same as actual "Chinese" cuisine.

                  Ditto when they expect that Italian-American food IS the same as actual "Italian" food. Italian-American cuisine should also probably be considered as a separate cuisine.

                  Then they go to Italy (or China) and find that the food they get in other-than-foreign/USA-tourist-devoted places is quite different. Some might then start saying how disappointed they were with the food. ;-)

                  NB: When I write "Chinese" and "Italian" above I am doing so with that broad brush (which I dislike) that ignores the significant regional variations within each cuisine.

                  1. re: paulj
                    meg3325 Feb 6, 2012 09:05 AM

                    Probably all the above. It's practically impossible to recreate the "real thing" when you move to a completely different environment. The veggies, meat, dairy and fish are different in the U.S. Also, American tastes are simply different. I've met people who ate "real Chinese food" in China and were disappointed. They actually preferred the Americanized version much better. I've had Japanese style curry and Japanese style hamburger and it's nothing like the Indian or American version.

                    1. re: meg3325
                      huiray Feb 6, 2012 09:16 AM

                      To this day I have a sharp mental recollection of overhearing a group of young USAmericans in Dubrovnik (of the old Yugoslavia, from many, many years ago) who were complaining bitterly of being unable to find a decent hamburger, if they could even find one at all. Yet there we were surrounded by so much nice native food, so much seafood, etc etc.

                      1. re: meg3325
                        bob96 Feb 7, 2012 07:19 PM

                        There is no such thing as one "real" Italian cuisine, and what have birth to Italian American food was a blend of Neapolitan and other localized southern foods and foodways, manipulated by savvy immigrant restauranteurs and manufacturers with an American (non-Italian) clientele in mind. That template was, also, put in place between 1900 and 1930. So comparing what's called "Italian American" food today to "Italian" food today is really comparing apples to oranges, or mele to arance.

                        1. re: meg3325
                          BuildingMyBento Jan 26, 2014 10:06 AM

                          American curry?

                2. t
                  taurus30 Feb 3, 2012 07:20 PM

                  I am 2nd generation Italian/American, 1/2 fr om Avellino, 1/2 from Sicily.......in NJ!

                  I cook a lot of dishes, many Italian and I make my own "gravy", meatballs and Italian bread.

                  Fabio Viviani, an Italian chef was on a news show cooking "Italian Wedding Soup". He is from Italy, never heard of it in Italy......LOL.

                  Lidia Bastianich has a great show/cookbook on "Lidia's Italy in America". It shows how Italian brought to this country and the Italian Americans created here, that we have our own sort of culture. All the Little Italy's have Italian American dishes. I grew up in one, Newark, NJ, that developed "Italian Style Hot Dogs and Pizza Bread. Then there's Philly cheese steaks, Chicago beef sandwiches, Muffuletta, chicken riggies etc etc.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: taurus30
                    paulj Feb 3, 2012 08:14 PM

                    Was Viviani puzzled by the English name, Italian Wedding Soup, the canned creations, or minestra maritata?

                    1. re: paulj
                      coll Feb 3, 2012 09:47 PM

                      Yeah I was just going through my old recipe drawer, and I found a recipe I clipped many years ago for what they called Italian Soup with Tiny Meatballs or something like that. I remember when they started calling it Wedding Soup, I feel like it was the soup companies that were making it to sell is where it started, and no one having any idea what it was; however it became quite the fad very quickly. An Italian soup with a catchy American name.

                  2. m
                    meg3325 Feb 3, 2012 12:34 PM

                    I found a Japanese Pizza Hut commercial. Notice how the pizza is different to cater to Japanese tastes? Sausages are lined on the crusts of the pizza. A Southern Italian dish makes it's way to the U.S. becomes an Italian American dish, and decades later is a hit in the Asian market.


                    3 Replies
                    1. re: meg3325
                      E Eto Feb 4, 2012 05:18 AM

                      Delivery pizza is very popular in Japan, though probably not as popular as it is in the US (it's not quite as cheap as it is in the US), especially with chains like Pizza Hut and other imitators of this US style. But I have to say, that the some of these Japanese chains serve up surprisingly decent pizza, approaching that Neapolitan style than its US counterparts.

                      Conversely, for a long while, Japan outnumbered the US (and was second only to Italy) in the number of pizzerias approved by the AVPN (Associazione Verace Pizza Napolitana). Seems like many US cities are recently getting on the Neopolitan wagon with the opening of several AVPN approved restaurants.

                      1. re: E Eto
                        meg3325 Feb 4, 2012 08:20 AM

                        The pizza in the Japanese Pizza Hut commercial looked delish. Their unique spin is lining the crusts with sausages. It's another example of Japanese "yoshoku" cuisine, which is western food cooked to please a Japanese palate.

                        1. re: meg3325
                          E Eto Feb 4, 2012 09:18 AM

                          Yoshoku has a longer and more complex history than that. It is a very seriously taken category of cuisine in Japan, along with sushi, Italian, washoku, French, etc. While there are dumbed down versions one readily can find at family restaurants, there are many well trained chefs creating masterful yoshoku dishes in restaurants that can easily be mistaken to be high-end French or Italian restaurants.


                    2. p
                      Puffin3 Feb 3, 2012 07:45 AM

                      "Real' Italian food is grown by the men and prepared by the women living on rural Italian farms. Virtually every ingredient is local. There are thousands of 'Ma and Pa' small restaurants who don't/can't afford to employ the 'Roma's' or anyone else. It's these small family owned/operated restaurants which serve authentic regional Italian dishes all over Italy. Real Italian food is like real French food. Both have unique flavors that can never be duplicated outside the region. In France it's about the taste of the dairy (never dublcated anywhere else)/flour/wine/the minerals in the soil which grows the grass the animals feed on and it's the same with every regional food all over the world. Fresh pasta from Aosta doesn't taste the same as pasta made in Catania. Parisian bouillabaisse never tastes the same as bouillabaisse from Marseilles. Trying to lump all food made in Italy as 'Italian' food is like doing the same with 'American or Canadian' food. It's all about the various regions of a country.

                      1. m
                        meg3325 Feb 2, 2012 08:57 PM

                        I have two Italian pen pals and they think the proverbial spaghetti and meatballs is a bit of a joke. In fact, I told them that's what Americans think Italian food is. My friend Sandro laughed out loud. Apparently pasta and meatballs are never eaten together in Italy. Meatballs are called "polpette." My Italian friends tell me that pasta should never be drenched in sauce - it ruins the taste since you taste the sauce (which is overly sweet) and don't taste the pasta.

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: meg3325
                          pdxgastro Feb 3, 2012 01:33 AM

                          Italians get crazy about it too. One American woman who's married to an Italian man made a pasta dish with chicken in it. Normal to us here, right? Well, he ate the pasta first and left the meat for 'secondo'. On his plate.

                          Another example. American woman married to Italian man. They have a young son. They went out to eat. Father was eating french fries. Son wanted some. Dad insisted son needed to finish the pasta on his plate (il primo) before he could have some french fries (il contorno, which goes with the secondo). Madness!

                          1. re: pdxgastro
                            meg3325 Feb 3, 2012 07:59 AM

                            Americans tend to break a lot of rules and Italians hate this. There is a right way to do things, the proper way - the Italian way. I sent my Italian friend a video of an Italian American woman making home made pizza and she used a rolling pin for the dough. Michele was horrified and screamed over the internet! He said pizza must never be used with a rolling pin since it ruins the dough.

                            1. re: meg3325
                              LeoLioness Feb 3, 2012 08:03 AM

                              Was the woman claiming to make authentic Italian pizza? If not, the uproar is a bit silly.

                              1. re: LeoLioness
                                paulj Feb 3, 2012 09:26 AM

                                But is there authentic pizza that does not have an Italian American influence? I heard on a TV documentary (Burt Wolf on Ellis Island) that about a third of the Italian immigrants returned to Italy, bring back food ideas from America. Earlier pizza - just the flat bread with a light topping of oil and herbs. They even claimed that meat balls and spaghetti went back to Italy - but if yesterday's poster is to be believed, not all parts of Italy.

                                Italian cooking may be resistant to change, but it isn't impervious. They adopted New World foods like tomato and corn (maiz) readily enough. And they have adopted to modern ways as well (Italian instant polenta?)

                                1. re: paulj
                                  meg3325 Feb 3, 2012 10:15 AM

                                  Apparently real Italian pizza has just a few ingredients. Piling several toppings like pepperoni, onions, bell peppers, etc. is strictly American. The best pizza comes from Naples since it was invented there. Italians don't like a lot of toppings because it weighs down the pizza dough. To Italians, the fewer ingredients the better the dish. Americans are the opposite - the more the better.

                                  1. re: meg3325
                                    foreverhungry Feb 3, 2012 11:00 AM

                                    Pizza in Bergamo comes with high quality toppings like gorgonzola, speck, proscuitto, artichokes, etc. The lunch lines have a mix of tourists and locals on lunch break. I don't think you can make a generalization about pizza in Italy. I've had pizza there several times that's come with toppings. The big difference I've found between most pizza in Italy and the average pizza in the US is that more care goes into the product, and the ingredients and techniques are high quality, resulting in much better pizza, whether with toppings or just simply finished.

                                    1. re: meg3325
                                      eatzalot Feb 3, 2012 11:16 AM

                                      The pizza is a Neapolitan invention, largely unknown elsewhere in Italy until after WW2, when it evolved offshoot versions both in the US and in other regions of Italy. Below, summary from another CH thread, quoting Mariani (the popular US historian of Italian-American food, whose writing answers most of the US questions posed in this long thread). For those of you unfamiliar with traditional Neapolitan pizzas, the differences are less about number of toppings than topping selection (pepperoni, for example, is a US, not Italian, sausage), size, serving, and eating (generally individual-sized pizzas are served whole on a plate with knife and fork, as you'll see in Italian cookbooks). That's also how many customers (who are from Italy) consume them in a VERY good and popular Neapolitan pizzeria here in California that I frequent -- topic of CH thread linked below. It's part of, and the cook is licensed by, the VPN (vera pizzeria Napoletana) trade group, which promotes the classic Neapolitan pizzas internationally. Despite the quality and integrity of his pizzas (the cook himself is also from Europe), many US customers complain, including online, because the pizzas violate their US prejudices -- complain basically about the VPN pizzas being exactly what they're supposed to be if authentically Neapolitan.

                                      Like many “Italian-American” dishes, our pizzas are mostly a US idea. Food historian J F Mariani traces their evolution, starting as “poor people’s food from the slums of Naples” and unknown in most of Italy. Neapolitan immigrants brought them to the US where pizzas grew larger, changed from knife-and-fork to finger food, narrowed stylistically from free-form ingredients to a sauce-cheese-toppings ritual, and exploded in popularity in the 1950s.

                                      -- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7550...

                                      1. re: eatzalot
                                        meg3325 Feb 3, 2012 11:37 AM

                                        Ironically, my friend in Italy said there was a pizza contest held in Italy and the winner was an American pizza! It's now a global dish and pizza is even popular in Japan. Of course, they added their own unique Japanese touches to the traditional Italian dish. Italians are very proud of their culture and that's why they are so passionate about their food - it's tradition.

                                        1. re: meg3325
                                          eatzalot Feb 3, 2012 12:19 PM

                                          In fact, according to data I saw recently, far more pizza is consumed in the US than in Italy. Besides evolving its own styles, the US also popularized pizza and I remember at least one account (possibly again in Mariani) of it being well received in parts of Italy but considered "American" food.

                                          To complicate matters even more delightfully, a very plausible detail I got from a European expert that not even Mariani may have mentioned is that the pizza wasn't even from Naples initially, but was imported (and in turn popularized) there from Greece, during the long ancient period when the important coastal province (later kingdom) of Naples was Greek colony.

                                          No doubt, discussions raged in the public fora of post-Hellenic Naples about "Real Greek Food Vs. Italian Greek Food."

                                        2. re: eatzalot
                                          paulj Feb 3, 2012 11:57 AM

                                          Seasoned flat breads are well established in other parts of the Mediterranean. An example outside of Italy is the Spanish coca.

                                          1. re: eatzalot
                                            paulj Feb 3, 2012 12:03 PM

                                            I like how Italians have authentic traditions, while Americans have prejudices. :)

                                            1. re: paulj
                                              eatzalot Feb 3, 2012 12:51 PM

                                              But if a distinctive, authentic US tradition (say, Carolina BBQ), advertised as such, were offered in Italy, and locals complained because it didn't match some variant of BBQ they were accustomed to, that would represent the same kind of prejudice, but by Italians.

                                              There's a venerable history of such clashes in the US. Of course a famous pop-culture example you've probably seen (Italian vs Italian-American food) appeared in the 1996 US food movie _The Big Night_ where the immigrants try to offer risotto in 1950s New Jersey, and locals want spaghetti and meatballs with it. Similarly in my corner of the New World, a respected San Francisco Chinese restaurateur around 1970 was quoted in the newspaper for his dapper reply when a tourist visiting his restaurant ordered a popular Chinese-American dish (I think chop suey), but was told apologetically that the restaurant served only Chinese food.

                                              1. re: paulj
                                                huiray Feb 3, 2012 12:52 PM

                                                (I assume you mean USAmericans.)

                                                Well, part of it is that USAmericans have much shorter histories of these culinary mish-mashes in general, with most things coming from elsewhere, than those other places, even if they in turn got stuff from elsewhere. :-)

                                                1. re: paulj
                                                  Bada Bing Feb 4, 2012 09:52 AM

                                                  paulj writes: "I like how Italians have authentic traditions, while Americans have prejudices. :)"

                                                  And I like how you formulate this point! Sums up a lot.

                                                2. re: eatzalot
                                                  E Eto Feb 4, 2012 05:24 AM

                                                  Lombardi's pizza in NYC claims to be the originator of the NY style pizza, from 1905. But that's another style of pizza entirely, though its roots are Neapolitan.

                                    2. k
                                      kjonyou Aug 22, 2011 02:33 AM

                                      I live on the west coast and have relatives on the east coast. Everytime I visit, I get reminded how Califionia dosent have good Italian food and how REAL italian food is with a red sauce.

                                      When I beg to differ and take them out to good places on the west coast they just act like its some kind of California Cusine. Never mind that the restraunt is Italian, family owned, they wont serve meatballs and spaghetti on the same plate and half the people in the dinning room are speaking italian. It dosent have a lot of red sauces so its not Italian.

                                      Seriosley, how can you argue with people who think if its a red sauce its not Italian or complain that the pizza they had in China or South America was not good.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: kjonyou
                                        thew Aug 22, 2011 05:12 AM

                                        have you been to naples? the ragu there tends to red sauce.

                                        1. re: thew
                                          huiray Aug 22, 2011 05:52 AM

                                          Uhh...the cuisines in northern Italy tend NOT to use tomatoes...use wine or broth as the liquid for sauces instead...stuffed pasta rather than extruded forms of pasta...egg pasta rather than dry durum wheat/semolina pasta...rice dishes are common...polenta & risotto...etc etc. But I'm sure you know all this. :-)

                                          1. re: huiray
                                            thew Aug 22, 2011 06:33 AM

                                            i did say naples, didn't i? not northern italy, right?

                                            1. re: thew
                                              huiray Aug 22, 2011 07:05 AM

                                              Yes, of course you did.

                                              My comment was more a general reminder to folks reading this that although red ragu from Naples is real Italian food, so is lots of other stuff - such as from the northern regions of Italy, that do not have a red sauce - that is also real Italian food. I was supporting kjonyou's objection about folks visiting California complaining that [quote] "Califionia dosent have good Italian food and how REAL italian food is with a red sauce." [unquote]. You were responding to that post.

                                        2. re: kjonyou
                                          huiray Aug 22, 2011 07:07 AM

                                          I assume you meant to say "...who think if it's NOT a red sauce..." in your last sentence?

                                          1. re: kjonyou
                                            lagatta Jan 26, 2014 04:34 PM

                                            South America includes Argentina and Uruguay, the most "Italian" countries on Earth outside the Boot.

                                            1. re: lagatta
                                              c oliver Jan 26, 2014 04:39 PM

                                              We visit Rio at least once a year and pizza is VERY popular. And pretty darn good. Especially the Portuguese pizza which comes with hard boiled egg on top.

                                              1. re: c oliver
                                                lagatta Jan 26, 2014 04:57 PM

                                                There is also a very large Italian population in Brazil. Since Argentina and tiny Uruguay have smaller populations, the PERCENTAGE of Italian-origin people is much higher there.

                                                I believe the largest absolute number of Italian emigrants to the Americas is in the US, but the highest percentage of Italians among the population, by far, is in those Southern Cone countries. Italian pronunciation and vocabulary (in particular from Liguria and Piemont) have a huge influence on the Spanish spoken around Rio de la Plata.

                                          2. b
                                            bunnyone Jul 21, 2011 07:27 PM

                                            I see the primary differences between Italian American and Italian as related to an overall style- Italian Italian food tends to have fewer ingredients, due to higher prices and a lesser degree of variety ingredients wise. The ingredients tend to be very high quality.
                                            In America, people who had been mostly poor became comparatively rich, and so celebrated that wealth by adding more cheeses and meats.
                                            I cherish a memory of a cheap Roman pizza place, talking with the owner after closing and watching him get things together for the next day. Every tomato was examined, smelled, to see if it was properly ripe. The varieties of pizza depended on what was best at the markets that week. That kind of thing is usually only seen in pricey restaurants in North America. But then again, big slabs of juicy meat are usually a pricey treat in Italy...

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: bunnyone
                                              losen Jan 31, 2014 04:11 PM

                                              I used to think that Italians ate lots of cheese and meat and that the only vegetables they would ever eat were crappy lettuce and herbs drenched in fatty, sweet sauce. However, I totally changed my mind when I was looking up recipes for chards, kale and endive...there are so many ways Italians handle those nasty taste leaves and they turn out so delicious. I don't think true Italians, or French or really any ethnic cuisine uses fewer ingredients, but the ingredients are definitely of better quality!

                                            2. Cynamar Jul 21, 2011 04:23 PM

                                              I spent a week cooking with a chef in Tuscany this summer. Tuscan food is very simple and seasonal. They don't use a lot of heavy cream or complicated sauces.

                                              1. o
                                                OregontoTexas Jun 9, 2011 12:32 PM

                                                I am more often than not annoyed by New Englanders claiming to have the best "gravy", to me there is no such thing as the best, and on top of that using canned tomatoes and cooking them for hours is a travesty. There are way more regional variations in Italy than you would find in the U.S. For the longest time you would only find the same typical Italian American menus, with poor quality ingredients. All of the chain Italian restaurants work off of the typical Italian American cuisine. Spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parmigiana, etc. particulary not fresh. My disdain for Italian American is also fueled by my friends restaurant. I want it to change so bad, Mushy pasta, tomato skin in the sauce, bland meatballs, and low quality seafood. All of his grandmothers original recipes. Not all traditions are good.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: OregontoTexas
                                                  inaplasticcup Jul 21, 2011 11:18 AM

                                                  "...there is no such thing as the best..."


                                                2. iL Divo Apr 25, 2011 05:23 PM

                                                  Italian food has always been my favorite ever since I can remember.
                                                  but I didn't know there was as big a difference as there is until we went to Italy.
                                                  never had such wonderful food in my entire life as we had there.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: iL Divo
                                                    c oliver Apr 25, 2011 05:50 PM

                                                    How many areas did you visit? The food is so different from north to south. I'm considering a month trip.

                                                    1. re: c oliver
                                                      tatamagouche Apr 26, 2011 06:36 AM

                                                      Not just north to south. What you get in Piedmont is not what you get in the Veneto is not what you get in Emilia-Romagna is not what you get in Liguria, though they're all northern. The south is a bit more homogenous, but not wholly. Palermo's unbelievable. Trieste is like nothing else in the country due to the Austro-Hungarian influence.

                                                      I've been to about half the regions, and if I HAD to pick my starting points based on food alone, I'd vote for Bologna and Parma.

                                                      1. re: tatamagouche
                                                        foreverhungry Apr 26, 2011 06:58 AM

                                                        "Not just north to south. What you get in Piedmont is not what you get in the Veneto is not what you get in Emilia-Romagna is not what you get in Liguria, though they're all northern."

                                                        Part of that regional difference stems from the cultural differences with the countries Italy shares Northern borders with. My family is from the Val d'Aosta, and Piemontese cooking is very similar to French cooking on the French side of the Alps, where my family now lives. Go to Bergamo and Como, and you'll get more dishes that look more Swiss style, which while it looks very similar to French Alpine cooking (Savoie, Haute Savoie, Isere) nonetheless has subtle differences. Finally, head north from Verona, and the style becomes more Austrian-like - still distinct Alpine methods and flavors, very different from low lying areas like Venice, yet across the northern mountains in Italy, you still experience different dishes and subtleties. Go to Aosta (Italy), Martigny (Switzerland), or Chamonix or Sallanches (France), and you'll see similar dishes served in homes and small inns and local restaurants.

                                                        1. re: tatamagouche
                                                          c oliver Apr 26, 2011 11:17 AM

                                                          ;Bologna is at the very top of my list. I[m also curous to experiecne how incredibly diverse the food is

                                                          1. re: c oliver
                                                            foreverhungry Apr 26, 2011 11:34 AM

                                                            Perhaps meandering a bit off topic, but I find it funny how people talk about "Italian" food or "French" food as though it's one homogenous cuisine. France is an excellent example - just in the 500 mile or so trip from the French-Swiss-Italy border region of Haute Savoie to the French-Spain are of Haute Pyrenees, you'll go from Alpine cooking, to Provence style, to the Mediterranean and their seafood, to a Spanish style. Same goes for Italy. What the have in common is that regional differences are mirrored in climate and terrain, and thus what they could easily grow, domesticate, harvest, and store. French can look like Spanish at one end, Italian on another, and German not too far away, just like Italian can look like French, Swiss, Austrian, Greek, or Spanish, depending on where one is.

                                                    2. arktos Apr 25, 2011 05:17 PM

                                                      Speaking of 'regional' Italian food in Italy, I'm guessing there must be such a thing as regional Italian-American food styles/specialties in the U.S., such as: Chioppino, Joe's Special and the Italianish caffe latte in the SF Bay Area, Muffaletta in NO, Cheesesteaks in Philly or Italian Beef Sandwiches in Chicago. Any other things I'm missing??

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: arktos
                                                        thew Apr 26, 2011 06:55 AM

                                                        cafe latte is hardly limited to the bay area. ciopinno is very much a SF thing. What;s joe's special?

                                                        1. re: thew
                                                          pikawicca Apr 26, 2011 08:02 AM

                                                          Joe's Special is a glorious fry-up of ground beef, onions, mushrooms, and chopped spinach; seasoned with Italian herbs and bound together at the last minute by scrambling in some beaten eggs. Other things can be added, but this is the way I've always liked it. Served at Original Joe's restaurant in SF for many years. (My dad grew up on the stuff, and whenever my itinerant Air Force family returned to "home base," we would head to Joe's for a fix.) This is one of my go-to weeknight dinners. If you can get your hands on some grass-fed beef or bison -- or even better, Wagyu -- this is truly wonderful, almost instant dinner.

                                                          1. re: pikawicca
                                                            huiray Apr 26, 2011 11:50 AM

                                                            I've done variations of this mixture, and with other veggies too, on various occasions through the years. Never thought it was something that was a "Named Dish" held in such esteem by people...

                                                            1. re: huiray
                                                              Bob W Jan 31, 2014 07:51 AM

                                                              Joe's Special is a mainstay of low-carb diets. Mrs W. has made it several times for me -- there's a version in one of the Zone diet cookbooks.

                                                              1. re: Bob W
                                                                c oliver Jan 31, 2014 07:55 AM

                                                                For me (only) Joe's Special is the opposite of that whole sum of the parts thing. Every love every ingredient but combined I think it's yucky. Mostly the texture. I could probably see doing it with everything but the egg and putting a poached or raw egg on top.

                                                            2. re: pikawicca
                                                              sedimental Apr 27, 2011 09:06 AM

                                                              Oh man! Blast from the past! I loved the one in San Jose. The older all male wait staff in their penguin suits-looked like they stepped out of a 1950's movie set...you were waiting for Frank Sinatra to walk in the door any minute. I was always mesmerized by the "bus boys" (that were in their 50's and 60's) wearing the red jackets -putting on a show with their plate balancing on their arms skill, clearing tables in seconds, tossing things in the air and catching them on their arms. Truly a lost art form! The veal meatballs were the best I've ever had -and I too loved the Joe's special.

                                                              I think there are three or more "Original Joes" with each of them saying they are the "Original" Original Joes ;) Terrific classic Italian American food and atmosphere. I hope they didn't modernize them.

                                                        2. n
                                                          Novelli Apr 25, 2011 02:05 PM

                                                          One aspect of true Italian cooking has to do with the available ingredients and if they're feesable to procure in the region they're made in and the climate for that region.

                                                          Example: most, if not all, recipes that call for milk, butter, cream, or beef are more times than any from the Northern regions (north of Roma), as that's where the big fields and pastures are located, making it easier for cattle farming. This area also gets the coldest during the winter months, which allows for better preservation of such dairy items.

                                                          As you go south and the terraine gets more mountainous and rocky, there's less beef and it's dairy products are less used, as they are replaced by the goat, sheep, or pig. (since the mountains and forests are all much more fitting for their lifestyle.)

                                                          i.e. climates also have a huge bearing on Italian food traditions.
                                                          Example: Since the south can get so much more hotter than the north, almost all the pastas are made from just water and flour. This way the pasta can be dried and used at a later time. If eggs were used all the time, they would spoil too quickly.

                                                          1. c
                                                            cheeseisheaven Apr 25, 2011 10:58 AM

                                                            Stefania of Taste Unique, who came to Portland from Rome, but was born in Puglia, said that Italians do not eat meatballs with spaghetti

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: cheeseisheaven
                                                              ioggstream Apr 25, 2011 01:29 PM

                                                              Meatball + pasta (not only spaghetti) is probably a common use in Abruzzo. Not a "standard" italian dish.

                                                              1. re: cheeseisheaven
                                                                Novelli Apr 25, 2011 01:49 PM

                                                                Correct. Pasta is usually the starter/1st course or 'primi'. Meats braised in the sauces used to coat the pasta are considered 'secondo', and are usually served after the pasta course is finished.

                                                              2. Casalbordino Feb 19, 2011 05:07 PM

                                                                I am Italian and I only cook Italian and more specifically traditional dishes.
                                                                Real Italian food is simple - use of humble ingredients
                                                                Usually uses ingredients close to the source (fresh fish almost wiggling)
                                                                Tomato sauce is not purchased in a jar but cooked with fresh tomatoes (if available)
                                                                All recipes are cooked from scratch with fresh and seasonal ingredients
                                                                Many dishes combine a mix of legumes and pasta or pasta and vegetables
                                                                Cured meats (like pancetta) are used in many recipes.

                                                                6 Replies
                                                                1. re: Casalbordino
                                                                  reatard Feb 20, 2011 05:46 AM

                                                                  Where in Italy are you from because I read most of what you call "Italian" sweeping generalizations and how Americans romanticize Italian cooking.

                                                                  I have a friend from Rome who is a pretty good cook and he has probably broken every single one of the items you listed. For example; "use of humble ingredients". What do you consider humble ingredients? If they butcher a cow what do they do with the expensive cuts like the filet? Ship them to another country? Is Parmigiano-Reggiano considered a "humble" ingredient?

                                                                  1. re: reatard
                                                                    ioggstream Feb 20, 2011 09:11 AM

                                                                    I live around Roma, and I confirm the Casalbordino version of traditional italian cooking.

                                                                    Fillet is a standard in Italy since 1960, like many other ingredients. They are not "traditional" anyway (my grans ate fillet once a week, or less) but I was grown eating fillet.

                                                                    To me it's hard to say which is the "real" italian cooking without eating something together. While chatting, it's necessary to use "rule of thumb"s. But I think the keywords are simplicity and fresh ingredients.

                                                                    These are the keys but, well, to discern you have to taste.


                                                                    1. re: ioggstream
                                                                      tatamagouche Feb 21, 2011 05:37 AM

                                                                      Italy changed my life; I'm one of those Americans who romanticize la dolce vita. I'm also a food writer, though, and so I agree with reatard (that sounds weird) that while Casalbordino's description is lovely and contains truths, most of them are truths that could be applied to many of the world's cooking traditions at one time or another. (E.g., before modern transportation, everyone used ingredients close to the source; afterward, many people all over the world still do.) I'm not sure what the point of a statement like "All recipes are cooked from scratch with fresh and seasonal ingredients." Really? Present-day Italians, to a person, cook every meal from scratch? Eschew all modern conveniences?

                                                                      And I'm unsure about the "simple, humble" thing too. Depends on what you mean by both those words. Umbrichelli al tartufo may be a simple dish in terms of number of ingredients, but fresh shaved truffle has always been a rare delicacy (albeit one Umbrians and Albans were luckily enough to have in proximity). There are many simple, humble Italian dishes. There are also many complex, rich ones—and I don't know why they're any less "real" than their counterparts.

                                                                      1. re: tatamagouche
                                                                        mbfant Apr 12, 2011 07:58 AM

                                                                        Ah, simplicity! In response to the people who call Roman food simple -- whether in praise or dismissal -- I always say, yes, like a Chanel suit.

                                                                        As you say, Italians today buy an awful lot of ready-made products at the supermarket, or at any rate eat them in institutional cafeterias and many trattorias. But many don't. They may not put up their own tomatoes in late August, but they'll buy them at farmers' markets from people who do. And, honestly, I don't know anybody who uses store-bought sauces (but somebody must buy them), though some very serious people I know use bouillon cubes or grains and prefab pastry dough.

                                                                        1. re: mbfant
                                                                          bob96 Apr 12, 2011 06:02 PM

                                                                          I've known some very Italian good cooks, amateur and pro, who don't mind admitting the careful use of a bouillon dadino to enhance a sauce or stew or soup.Of course, some of these are also the same people
                                                                          who forage wild fennel and dry their own crusci peppers.

                                                                          1. re: bob96
                                                                            mbfant Apr 13, 2011 11:11 PM

                                                                            Yes, there are more of them than one might think. :-)

                                                                2. j
                                                                  Jojo9 Feb 11, 2011 03:27 AM

                                                                  I live in Australia (both parents are Italian, from different regions) and I work with a woman who grew up just outside of NY. It wasn't until I was chatting to her about prosciutto (she called it 'prosciut', dropping the last syllable) that I realised what we know as 'American Italian' is mainly Italian food from one region, with the names in that regional dialect.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Jojo9
                                                                    rosmarino Feb 12, 2011 04:59 PM

                                                                    That's somewhat true, but I still think we're not really on the same page with basic definitions (although one wonders how important it really is to label something that might be beyond labeling). But, just to try again, I am an Italian American of immigrant parentage and I tend to think of Italian American food as food being the provenance of Italian immigrants and Italian Americans, some of which went through an Americanization process (but much of which did not; e.g. my relatives in Italy eat essentially the same dishes we eat and my parents basically cook what they grew up eating, make wine, cheeses, cured meats, etc. just as they did back home in Italy). But, AMERICAN Italian food is something that is more of the way Anglo Americans (or non-Italian Americans) interpret our food. You see it in chain restaurants that operate under an Italian guise but are not connected with the immigrant/ethnic community... places like Pizza Hut, Dominoes, Olive Garden, etc. These places all have the tell tale indicators of American Italian food: sweet sauces, lots of melted cheese, primi and secondi sharing the same plate, overcooked pasta, cheese and seafood combined, excessive use of oregano, soft rolls, and of course numerous invented dishes that have no relation to anything in Italy of in the ethnic community. It really is an entirely made up cuisine. So, in sum, I think it's important to distinguish the food of ethnic Italian Americans from the types of "Italian" food that are known among the more general population: basically, Italian American food vs. American Italian food. If that makes any sense...

                                                                    1. re: rosmarino
                                                                      bob96 Feb 12, 2011 08:58 PM

                                                                      Maybe one way of clarifying some of the issues: the difference between Italian-Americna food cooked routinely at home--in the homes of Italian-Americans--versus the food served in Italian American restaurants. The former would, I think, show much variety, and varying degrees of fidelity to regional traditions (both Italian regions and American localisms, like fried ravioli in St Louis). Restaurant fare was for the most part long ago standardized, commodified, and geared to what were "American tastes" (and bottom lines). There has been much change and re-working in I-A restaurants today, but except for self-conscious places, they reflect a distinctly American protocol--even down to the huge portions. Home to home, a different story--my Calabrese cousins eat much the same way (but with better ingredients and a wider range of store-bouth goods) than my 1st generation Calabrese grandparents. But you'd be hard pressed to find similar matches between restaurants.

                                                                      1. re: rosmarino
                                                                        italia84 Feb 14, 2011 09:49 AM

                                                                        Yes, I am a 2nd generation American. There is a distinct difference between the food my family cooks and the "italian" food my mother in law cooks, whose family has lived in this country for generations, is from an english/polish background.

                                                                        My mom's lasagna may be different from what is served in Italy, but it is very similiar to what other Italian-Americans make. My MIL, for example, uses cottage cheese instead of ricotta in hers. No Italian or Italian-American would ever serve that! But, I have seen Paula Deen do the same thing on her show. She also makes alfredo sauce with sour cream. Now, alfredo sauce may not be authentically ITalian, but when my mom makes a white sauce, it does not have sour cream in it. Sour cream has no place in Italian food.

                                                                        Italian-Americans use brands like Cento, tuttorosso, etc. Non-Italians may use Hunts, etc. The seasonings are all different.

                                                                        What the Olive Garden serves is NOT a good example of Italian-American food, but may be a decent example of what AMERICANS think of as Italian food.

                                                                        Subtle differences that make all the WORLD of a difference.

                                                                    2. f
                                                                      Floridagirl Feb 7, 2011 05:21 PM

                                                                      I think about that alot. But, when I'm eating food that tastes really good, I don't care.

                                                                      1. m
                                                                        mimi222 Feb 7, 2011 11:59 AM

                                                                        American Italian is basically fast food that is inspired by Italian cooking . The source of inspiration is limited to things like the use of basil and oregano, the tomato and cheese combination, use of pasta, seafood, wine based sauces ... anything that immigrants introduced to Americans, who loved it enough to make those elements stick around . Real Italian food is defined by a overall higher quality, more diversity (not every pasta dish has to have cheese and tomato ,or even a sauce on top of it), more complicated cooking methods, and the presence of the history of the dish, which adds up to its character( which varies depending on region-and is completely different from the history of immigrant food). Apart from that, foods are being used differently in the US(pasta is not a main course in Italy, for example).I think overall, it is difficult to define the difference between the two because they don't have much in common. A good way to understand real Italian cooking is to buy a good cook book in Europe-(not in the US!- the chances that is is somehow influenced by immigrant cooking are very high!), and just read through it to get a feel for its character which is surprisingly different from italian American food.

                                                                        1. a
                                                                          artigiano81 Jan 8, 2011 01:56 PM

                                                                          I would agree with the comments on the descendants of Italian immigrants creating Italian American food. For example the New York style pizza is a variation of the traditional Neaplitan pizzas created by Immigrants and their kids. American tastes requires some tweaking, if you will on the original.



                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: artigiano81
                                                                            rosmarino Jan 12, 2011 07:51 AM

                                                                            It's difficult to really answer the question, since Italy is a regional country and most people there would have difficulty defining what is Italian food. I'm sure the same is true in most old world countries with long complex histories...

                                                                            I'm an Italian American, and the food that we eat in my home is pretty much the same as what my relatives eat in Italy. But, in the larger American world, I tend to see that there are 2 iterations of "Italian food." One is what I call "Italian American food," and the other I call "American Italian food."

                                                                            The former is food created by Italian immigrants and Italian Americans to adapt American ingredients or tailor meals to changing palettes. I think any number of things would fall into this category, such as NY style pizza, the various Italian heroes available in New York's Italian delis, and virtually anything with parmigiana in the name. These dishes are usually "overboard" versions of simple (often Neapolitan or other southern) fare and reflect the abundance of America and the desire to make everything big and fat! One can sense the differences with the Italian originals, but at the same time, when sampled in an authentic setting where they are often done well, one can sense the link with Italy and also appreciate the fact that something new and unique has taken shape on American soil.

                                                                            "American Italian" however is something altogether different... this is what most Americans are familiar with and it is present in the various chain restaurants that claim to be Italian. This food has nothing to do with Italian immigrants or Italian Americans. It is pure American fantasy. I don't need to name the perpetrators. These places appeal to an American American palette (not an Italian one and not an Italian American one) which means that everything is swimming in sauce, plastered with melted cheese, and somewhat sweet. Pasta is cooked until paste, bread is soft as a sponge, and the primo shares the same plate as the secondo. The markers of Americanized food are apparent: love of melted cheese, love of dipping sauces (what the %^&?), love of sweet things, and love of soft things (goes for pasta, bread - if it can even be called bread, vegetables, etc).

                                                                            If you're Italian or Italian American or spent any amount of time in Italy then you know what the differences are... they can be easily and instantly spotted, though often difficult to codify in absolutes!

                                                                            1. re: rosmarino
                                                                              c oliver Jan 12, 2011 12:41 PM

                                                                              What about the places that source Italian products and cook in a totally Italian manner. Are those Italian Italian restaurants?

                                                                              1. re: rosmarino
                                                                                Jojo9 Feb 11, 2011 03:35 AM

                                                                                I love going to Italian restaurants and seeing how their food differs from what my family cooks. Eye opening!

                                                                                Mum thinks the cachet of 'cucina povera' is a bit of a joke - this is what they used to eat because they had nothing else.

                                                                                Though I love it now, I hated pasta fagioli (pasta fazool?) as a kid, but I've seen it popping up on upmarket restaurant menus. Even this simple dish has many different incarnations!

                                                                                1. re: Jojo9
                                                                                  tatamagouche Feb 13, 2011 06:12 AM

                                                                                  Well, alhough Italians have a specific name for it, cucina povera is essentially just traditional microregional cookery, since throughout history far more people have been poor and geographically bound than not. I'm not sure how many cultures really point to the dishes of the rich as a key part of their overall cuisines, excepting the palace cookery of say Thailand and of course haute cuisine in France—and even the latter's only a few centuries old.

                                                                                  That said, I always found the fact that there's a restaurant in NYC called Peasant borderline offensive, especially since, of course, it ain't cheap.

                                                                                  1. re: tatamagouche
                                                                                    thew Feb 13, 2011 11:21 AM

                                                                                    who is being offended by that name?

                                                                            2. quatrofromaggio Nov 16, 2010 10:01 PM

                                                                              I can't give a short answer, the differences are so many that I even started a blog on the subject (http://quatrofromaggio.blogspot.com/ ). I am an Italian who loves to cook, and after 10 years in Vancouver *I had* to start talking of the many aberrations of Italian food in North America. I don't mind adaptations to the local palate, and I understand that food, exactly like language, naturally evolves, but I do have a problem with self-proclaimed 'authentic' restaurants that offer a completely distorted view of Italian cuisine. I wish the word 'authentic' could be certified!

                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                              1. re: quatrofromaggio
                                                                                bbqboy Nov 17, 2010 12:22 PM

                                                                                who claims North American Italian is authentic? After 150 years, it's pretty much "our" cuisine now.

                                                                                1. re: bbqboy
                                                                                  quatrofromaggio Nov 17, 2010 01:13 PM

                                                                                  Unfortunately a lot of restaurants do (at least in the Vancouver area where I live). But I'm also referring to things like "Tuscan Chicken Pasta" - using the adjective "Tuscan" to provide an element of authenticity, when there is absolutely no chicken pasta in Tuscany... I wish they stopped doing that :)

                                                                                  It seems that for some reason adding "Tuscan" or generically "Italian" helps selling more dishes... As an Italian, even though flattering, I consider this a form of false advertising.

                                                                                  1. re: quatrofromaggio
                                                                                    bbqboy Nov 17, 2010 01:19 PM

                                                                                    That sounds more Olive Gardenish than Mom & Pop Red Checkered tablecloth places.

                                                                                    1. re: bbqboy
                                                                                      quatrofromaggio Nov 17, 2010 02:29 PM

                                                                                      Yeah, absolutely.

                                                                                2. re: quatrofromaggio
                                                                                  thew Nov 17, 2010 03:26 PM

                                                                                  american italian food is authentic. it is an authentic cuisine created by americans descended from italians.

                                                                                  1. re: thew
                                                                                    bob96 Nov 17, 2010 06:42 PM

                                                                                    Yes, of course. The Tuscan thing is this generation's "continental" or, to a little lesser extent, "provençal" catch-all brand. Authenticity can be irrelevant if the food is good and original, but once you start making claims to it, then you're open to being judged accordingly.

                                                                                  2. re: quatrofromaggio
                                                                                    Jojo9 Feb 11, 2011 03:41 AM

                                                                                    Kind of like France's appellation controlee. There seem to be similar schemes in other countries to ensure the integrity of regional, traditionally produced foods.

                                                                                  3. f
                                                                                    foreverhungry Sep 27, 2010 01:16 PM

                                                                                    Asking about "Italian" food would be like talking about "American" food, "Chinese" food, or "French" food. When you get into the actual country, there is no such single style of cooking that defines the cusine. How would someone define "America" food? You can't because each region has different dishes, uses different ingredients, and even different techniques. Ditto with Italian. From south to north, like the people change from dark hair and brown eyes to blond hair and blue eyes (my grandparents were from Torino, both blond haired, blue eyed), the food changes too. IMO, it's a useless question. There are certainly plenty of areas in Italy where you'll find plenty of pasta with sausage and tomato sauce, and many areas of Italy where you'll rarely find a tomato item on a menu. Both are still "Italian cooking".

                                                                                    1. Scagnetti Sep 27, 2010 12:14 PM

                                                                                      IMHO, for real Italian food, you have to be standing in Italy, using Italian ingredients, being cooked by Italians in the Italian way. This is true for any ethnic cuisine.

                                                                                      And I'm not a fan of real Italian food. I was raised on Italian-American food which I dearly love.

                                                                                      The de facto Italian-American cookbook is Rao's Cookbook. Its recipes comes closest to what I grew up on.

                                                                                      1. j
                                                                                        jhopp217 Sep 27, 2010 11:51 AM

                                                                                        I know this is an older post, but I have a better question. Does it matter? Not being rude, but I've eaten many dishes prepared by "off the boat" Italians that were awful. Sitting around a pot and making sauce (I refuse to call it gravy, because it's not) and meatballs the way it is done back in the homeland doesn't guarantee it being good. As Bourdain says look in the back of every French and Italian restaurant and you won't find anyone who is French or Italian. That's where the good food comes from!

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: jhopp217
                                                                                          bob96 Sep 27, 2010 10:34 PM

                                                                                          Well, Bourdain is wrong, but that's not the point. There's absolutely no necessary connection between claims of authentic origin and quality. (By the way, what "boats" do these Italians arrive on? Come on.) I've had miserable traditional Italian meals prepared by "cooks" from Naples and Palermo, and wonderful ones by "cooks" from everyplace else. There were many Italians who thought they could coast, and many still do. Integrity, skill, a real desire to respect and care for ingredients and traditions, and some imagination and humility matter most, I think.
                                                                                          No one sits around a pot and makes sauce well, of course--those who care to, can and do make superb versions of a deeply resonant dish. Seek them out and judge by tasting.

                                                                                        2. Paulustrious Aug 3, 2010 12:08 PM

                                                                                          So I just finished making a traditional Sicilian meal. Or at least it was 60 years ago.

                                                                                          1) Braciole, stuffed with sliced boiled egg, olive oil soaked breadcrumbs, parsley, parmesan
                                                                                          2) Skinny bumpy sausages
                                                                                          3) Meatballs
                                                                                          4) Chicken drumsticks

                                                                                          Simmer all of these for a few hours in Tomato Sauce till the every drop of flavour has left the meat. The sauce is used for pasta and the meat is consumed afterwards. Always struck me as odd. The braciole (to me) is ruined. But that's the way my FICLM (Father-in-common-law-marriage) likes it, and has done so since he emigrated 60 years ago.

                                                                                          Unless he doesn't. That depends on variables like the phase of the moon and whether the number of fruit flies round my compost heap is odd or even.

                                                                                          Is this still Italian / Sicilian? I don't know. It's one of the saddest parts of being a chow person. Putting your heart and soul into something that will not be appreciated. But you still do your best with no shortcuts.

                                                                                          11 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                            monavano Aug 3, 2010 01:44 PM

                                                                                            Wow, can I come over for dinner??!!
                                                                                            What is bumpy sausage?
                                                                                            re: cooking the flavor out-was the braciole seared first?

                                                                                            1. re: monavano
                                                                                              Paulustrious Aug 3, 2010 02:43 PM

                                                                                              You will see them in traditional Italian shops. They come in a pinwheel shape and are often bbq'ed that way with skewer through them. Tend to have fennel in them.

                                                                                              Searing the braciole doesn't make a ha'pence of difference when you cook it in tomato sauce for two or three hours.

                                                                                              The sauce, though, is delicious.

                                                                                            2. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                              bob96 Aug 3, 2010 06:36 PM

                                                                                              It's not odd and still Sicilian/Calabrese/Neapolitan/Italian--the ragu meats are a changeable feast. From one chunk (a castrato or castrated sheep near Naples) to nothing but pork bones and ribs in Calabria, to a mix of elaborate braciole, the meat is never, technically, ruined, but enjoyed for its overcooked-ness after the pasta. They have to be in chunks or whole, never ground. There's nothing like the smell of ragu cooking downstairs on a Sunday morning.

                                                                                              1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                                Cachetes Aug 4, 2010 05:42 AM

                                                                                                Yes! This is absolutely the secret to delicious, unbelievably flavorful sauce. And I'm with Bob96 - the meat isn't ruined at all, even if it's a bit less savory.

                                                                                                I think when people here discuss their sauces lacking flavor, they are often just missing the richness that comes from the meat, as well as the fact that something happens to the flavors after a few hours burbling away on the stove. I refer to it as the point when the sauce has 'turned the corner' and takes on a richness that just isn't there if it's cooked for too short a period of time. I imagine that a food chemist could explain what happens to the compounds that makes the acidity of the tomatoes mellow and take on their full, rich flavor.

                                                                                                And like Bob96, I think this is still done in southern Italy. I had a ragu that my Aunt in Naples cooked for two days - the meat had totally disappeared into the sauce by the time we had it, but it was the richest thing I'd ever eaten.

                                                                                                1. re: Cachetes
                                                                                                  lagatta Aug 4, 2010 08:13 AM

                                                                                                  It is definitely still done in Abruzzo (central-southern Italy); I've eaten it there, with ragù-sauced pasta as the primo and the slow-cooked meat as part of the secondo. However, I would remove the braciole before they had lost all their flavour and texture. Slow cooking is indeed a key to producing rich flavours from sauce and often tougher cuts of meat. Braciole are made from tougher meat than a beefsteak, but as they are sliced so thin, I don't think they should be cooked to death.

                                                                                                  The sauce I had was similar to this more modern ("quicker") version , but the lamb or mutton was certainly not ground or fillets; rather it was bony pieces (necks would be fine) and the meat was served separately or kept back for later. http://abruzzotoday.com/abruzzo-recip...

                                                                                                  There are many Montrealers who are fairly recent (post WW2) immigrants from "gli Abruzzi" - now divided into Abruzzo and Molise and while their everyday food has certainly evolved under general North American and more specifically Québécois influences, dishes of these regions are still made as they were a couple of generations ago in Italy.

                                                                                                  Since then, on both sides of the ocean people have wanted to eat somewhat lighter food fitting their more sedentary modern lifestyl, though paradoxiically more fast food and ready-made food is available. In Italy, there has been a huge improvement in the standard of living since the immediate postwar era, not to mention earlier periods of mass migration across the oceans or northwards in Europe.

                                                                                                  1. re: lagatta
                                                                                                    bob96 Aug 4, 2010 09:03 AM

                                                                                                    So true. When we visited my cousins in Calabria, I mentioned in passing about a ragu. Naturally, Anna whipped one up for lunch one day (never ask for something in an Italian home; you might get it). The sauce was relatively light, with small meatballs and a modest braciole, there called by its standard name, involtino, along with some chunks of veal. Pasta first, meat second. Portions were "normal", too. We had, in typical Calabian fashion, peppery soppressata, fresh pecorino, and their home cured green olives. The meal was delicious and satisfying. But I'm sure my American family would have wondered not so discretely why there wasn't more of everything (meaning mostly pork fat) in the pot and on the table.

                                                                                                    1. re: lagatta
                                                                                                      Paulustrious Aug 5, 2010 03:28 AM

                                                                                                      Looks like I may have screwed up. My MICLM who died before I got to know her was from Abruzzo. I assumed the meal I learnt to cook was Sicilian.

                                                                                                      1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                                        funniduck Sep 16, 2010 05:51 PM

                                                                                                        I googled "MICLM" and nothing that made sense came up. What does it mean? :)

                                                                                                        1. re: funniduck
                                                                                                          scoopG Sep 16, 2010 06:33 PM


                                                                                                          1. re: scoopG
                                                                                                            Paulustrious Sep 17, 2010 05:56 AM

                                                                                                            Sorry - made it up on the spur of the moment. Lazy Typist Syndrome. (LTS).

                                                                                                  2. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                                    Jojo9 Feb 11, 2011 03:47 AM

                                                                                                    My nonna always made braciole with beef. Everything she made was delicious...except these. Dry, tough little rolls they were.

                                                                                                    Try making your braciole with pork, rather than beef. Stays moist, and it lends a sweeter flavour to the sauce.

                                                                                                  3. w
                                                                                                    WeekendChowDown Aug 3, 2010 07:25 AM

                                                                                                    Personally I've never been to Italy, however my grandmother was Italian and cooked very well. Her stuffed cabbage were out of this world, and her marinara was always made from scratch. Giada De Laurentiis also comes to mind when thinking of Italian food.

                                                                                                    If I had to break down to restaurant chain terms this would be my opinion:
                                                                                                    Mom/Pop Pizzeria type joints (Classic Italian)
                                                                                                    Carrabbas (Modern Italian)
                                                                                                    Olive Garden (Main stream American Italian)
                                                                                                    Fazolies (Is as Italian as eating at Chuck'e Cheese)

                                                                                                    1. BobB Jul 30, 2010 09:15 AM

                                                                                                      Interesting observation on the difference from Marcella Hazan when she was interviewed during a visit to Boston last year:

                                                                                                      Q: What is the biggest mistake we [in the US] still make in cooking Italian food?
                                                                                                      A. Too much garlic! Too much ruins everything. We say in Italy that what you keep out is as important as what you put in.

                                                                                                      I have to say that's very true. I love spaghetti with clams, for instance, but have never had an American version, even in a "good" restaurant, that didn't completely overpower the clam flavor with tons of garlic.

                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: BobB
                                                                                                        c oliver Jul 30, 2010 12:35 PM

                                                                                                        I think I first learned the garlic lesson from Batali. Up til then, I was like too many Americans and would put in multiples the amount that a recipe called for. I think the best dishes I've ever eaten are those where there are "layers" of flavor or nuances. I know no longer want to say "wow, great garlic in that!"

                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                          BobB Jul 30, 2010 12:52 PM

                                                                                                          Yes, I have this debate with my wife a lot. She belongs to the "there's no such thing as too much garlic" camp and accuses me of being a garlic hater. I tell her I'm not, I appreciate garlic as a member of the symphony, I'm just not fond of it as a soloist.

                                                                                                          1. re: BobB
                                                                                                            WeekendChowDown Aug 3, 2010 07:30 AM

                                                                                                            I totally agree. If you use garlic correctly you should not be able to pick it out in the dish. The only exception is if the dish is supposed to highlight the garlic. For example roasted garlic spread over toast or garlic pasta dishes like "Lemon Garlic Pasta". If garlic is the star, go for it, if its on the ingredient list you shouldn't "taste" it.

                                                                                                      2. a
                                                                                                        apple7blue Jul 28, 2010 04:45 PM

                                                                                                        I think people in the US would surprised by how sweet Indian food can be in India, or spiced with out being hot or spicy, especially temple food. I think with cuisines its always a dialogue. I mean what is real and authentic is often not so clear. The samosa is actually a Central Asian food called the samsa, and halva is from Arabia--two very Indian dishes. Tomatoes are from America, so its clearly been a dialogue from the start. Some people would say pasta/noodles were from China--I think that's just a popular myth. Durum wheat came with Arab conquerors of the South of Italy. In the South of Italy, eating pasta with sauces as a main dish in itself seems to be a truly Italian development in the 1100s. Tomatos themselves made a very late entry to Italian cuisine, and marinara sauces is an American Italian term. Marinara means coastal or sea faring in Italian, but the sauce contains no seafood in it. The pasta industry developed really late in the 1700s in Italy, around Campania, Naples and Sicily.

                                                                                                        In America, Italian immigrants ate fewer varieties of fruit, vegetables, and cheese than they had been used to, because of the trouble and expense involved in obtaining what they liked. They ate much more meat, because it was extremely cheap and plentiful by their standards. They acquired a taste for cakes and rich desserts. They also ate more pasta, which, because of its cost, had been a holiday dish for many southern Italians. The seasonings they used were primarily the classic ones of Campania, even though beginning in 1910 Sicilian immigrants outnumbered Campanian ones. Campanians were already established as grocers, and tomato paste, oregano, and garlic were easier to come by than seasonings typical of other regions—such as pine nuts, wild fennel, and saffron for Sicilians, or ginger for immigrants from Basilicata, the region to the east of Campania.

                                                                                                        Italian-Americans embraced enthusiastically the Americanized version of their food, and went on thinking of it as just like the food in the old country.

                                                                                                        9 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: apple7blue
                                                                                                          coll Jul 28, 2010 07:46 PM

                                                                                                          Everything you say makes perfect sense.

                                                                                                          1. re: apple7blue
                                                                                                            bookhound Jul 28, 2010 07:52 PM

                                                                                                            Noodles from China isn't a myth.


                                                                                                            1. re: bookhound
                                                                                                              Chemicalkinetics Jul 28, 2010 10:37 PM

                                                                                                              Nice article. I think the article suggests that the earliest noodle is found in China, that is not the same as noodles are from China. For example, is calculus invented by Issac Newton or Gottfried Leibniz?


                                                                                                            2. re: apple7blue
                                                                                                              bob96 Jul 29, 2010 08:50 AM

                                                                                                              Thanks for the informative context--much needed. I'd only question a few points. First, I do think that Italian immigrants ate more, had more various, fruits and vegetables here, rather than in Italy. US large-scale agriculture started booming at the height of (and to some degree because of) migration, and Italians such as the D'Arrigo family and others (Andy Boy brand) brought broccoli, artichokes, and other "native" produce to an American market. If my own family's experience is any guide, eating in small town Southern Italy was a ritualized practice wityh anarrow range of seasonal ingredients. You're right about pasta, too, which for my grandparents' generation (and even my father's) was much less eaten than soups, beans, greens, and bread. With prosperity (and the rapid rise of a large Italian-American food industry, from dozens of olive oil packers to pasta brands to local bakeries, eating changed forever--from spare,stingy ragus made with pork bones to the 7-meat extravaganzas we ended up with every Sunday. Also good point about the Neapolitan shaping of what we now define as a general "Italian American" pasta/tomato based menu, despite pockets of regional differences, like Ligurians, Tuscans, and Piemontese in Northern California.

                                                                                                              Finally, you're right, I think to emphasize the unworried embrace of new and changed foods in America: after immigration ended in 1924 (and before it reopened in the 60s), during WW2, and before the easy availability of many imported ingredients, Italian American food and culture was largely cutoff from Italy--and from most of the endless debates about authenticity. Fascinating story.

                                                                                                              1. re: apple7blue
                                                                                                                scoopG Jul 30, 2010 07:21 AM

                                                                                                                The Chinese were not included because they had already been excluded - since passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. (Only Chinese merchants, scholars, teachers and government officials were exempted.) Between 1880 and 1930, 28 million Europeans immigrated to the US. The National Origins Act of 1924 set immigration quotas based on 2% of each ethnic groups numbers based on the 1890 census. And of course these quotas were abolished in 1965 when the Immigration and Nationality Act was passed.

                                                                                                                1. re: scoopG
                                                                                                                  apple7blue Jul 30, 2010 12:25 PM

                                                                                                                  Well, the act eliminated immigration by other Asians including Asian Indians. Around that time, naturalized Asian Indians were stripped of their citizenship because of a Supreme Court decision as declaring them as Caucasian but not white. It also ended the informal Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907 which was never ratified, in which Japanese emmigration to the US was to be stopped by the Japanese government, but Japanese immigration to the US was not to be restricted by the US. This was in reaction to Californian discrimination towards Japanese Americans in violation of the Treaty of 1894 and 1911

                                                                                                                2. re: bob96
                                                                                                                  pikawicca Jul 30, 2010 07:22 AM

                                                                                                                  For an entirely enjoyable look into what immigrant communities in NYC ate, read the recently published "97 Orchard."

                                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                    scoopG Jul 30, 2010 07:33 AM

                                                                                                                    Yes, I've just started it. Wonderful review in the NYT on Wednesday:

                                                                                                                    She has a whole chapter on the Italians.

                                                                                                                3. re: apple7blue
                                                                                                                  applehome Apr 27, 2011 10:39 AM

                                                                                                                  "marinara sauces is an American Italian term. Marinara means coastal or sea faring in Italian, but the sauce contains no seafood in it. "

                                                                                                                  From Wiki:
                                                                                                                  There are at least two folk theories as to the origin of this sauce: One says cooks aboard Neapolitan ships invented marinara sauce in the mid-16th century after Spaniards introduced the tomato (a New World vegetable) to Europe. This meat-free sauce was easy to make and resisted spoiling due to the high acid content of tomatoes. This made it ideal for lengthy sea voyages hundreds of years before refrigeration methods were invented. Another theory states this was a sauce prepared by the wives of Neapolitan sailors upon their return from sea.[8]

                                                                                                                  Historically, however, we know the first Italian cookbook to include tomato sauce,[9]Lo Scalo alla Moderna (The Modern Steward), was written by Italian chef Antonio Latini and was published in two volumes in 1692 and 1694. Latini was Steward of the First Minister to the Spanish Viceroy of Naples. [10][11][12]

                                                                                                                  I know it's wiki, but it appears to be well documented. I learned marinara from a 1st gen Italian neighbor and have always been under the impression that Spaghetti Marinara has existed in Southern Italy for a long time. The sailor's sauce theory makes sense to me.

                                                                                                                4. k
                                                                                                                  kappasan9 Jul 21, 2010 10:46 AM

                                                                                                                  Ciao, I am Italiano born and raised in Italy and I can give many examples:

                                                                                                                  no meatballs with your spaghetti
                                                                                                                  no Alfredo or Marinara sauces
                                                                                                                  no over-sauced, overcooked pasta
                                                                                                                  no substitutions
                                                                                                                  better ingredients, many unavailable in the US
                                                                                                                  more variety
                                                                                                                  regional cooking, we have 20 regions in Italy, each with distinctive cuisine

                                                                                                                  22 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: kappasan9
                                                                                                                    southernitalian Jul 21, 2010 01:30 PM

                                                                                                                    Please clarify what you mean by "no substitutions"? Grazie molto.

                                                                                                                    1. re: kappasan9
                                                                                                                      c oliver Jul 21, 2010 01:48 PM

                                                                                                                      Alfredo sauce was created in Rome.
                                                                                                                      Marinara sauce? See below
                                                                                                                      "Marinara sauce originated with sailors in Naples in the 16th century, after the Spaniards introduced the tomato to their neighboring countries. The word marinara is derived from marinaro, which is Italian for “of the sea.” Because of this, many people mistakenly believe marinara sauce includes some type of fish or seafood. However, marinara sauce loosely translates as “the sauce of the sailors,” because it was a meatless sauce extensively used on sailing ships before modern refrigeration techniques were invented. The lack of meat and the sheer simplicity of making tasty marinara sauce were particularly appealing to the cooks on board sailing ships, because the high acid content of the tomatoes and the absence of any type of meat fat resulted in a sauce which would not easily spoil. "

                                                                                                                      Just a couple of disagreements with you. No time to check every assertion.

                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                        bob96 Jul 21, 2010 03:19 PM

                                                                                                                        Agree with kappasan about more variety, and (unsurprisingly) about regional cooking (although standardization creeps in), and even about over-sauced pasta (though that's being corrected little by little here). But Alfredo is as Roman as, well, via Veneto, and marinara is Neapolitan--in Naples it can mean a plain tomato sauce flavored with capers, olives, anchovies, oregano, and chilis.. It can also mean, here, a simple pummarola, or lightly cooked tomato sauce with simply basil and garlic. Better ingredients? Sure, some. Maybe many. But that's a function of demand, and is changing here as well. Meatballs with spaghetti? Not everywhere, but not unknown either--polpette in sauce and served as a secondo, or on a separate plate alongside pasta.

                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                          mbfant Jul 22, 2010 04:49 AM

                                                                                                                          Let me defend kappasan9, who doubtless does not need my help.

                                                                                                                          1. "Alfredo sauce" is named for a restaurant in Rome, but as a sauce, it does not exist in Italy. "Fettuccine al triplo burro" is the proper name of the dish, which is fettuccine dressed with a ton of sweet butter and grated parmigiano. There is no sauce, in the sense of something made separately and added to the cooked pasta, and it definitely does not contain any of the other ingredients one sees associated with the designation "Alfredo sauce."

                                                                                                                          2. "Marinara sauce" is fuzzier, but "spaghetti alla marinara," say, on a menu today normally contains seafood. A pizza "alla marinara" (in Rome) has tomato sauce, visible garlic, and oregano, no cheese, which is closer to US "marinara sauce," a product you would not expect to find in an Italian supermarket (I hesitate to say "never," but it's what I think). What is the source of your quotation?

                                                                                                                          1. re: mbfant
                                                                                                                            c oliver Jul 22, 2010 07:58 AM

                                                                                                                            1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fettuccine_alfredo

                                                                                                                            2. Can't find that one but here's wiki for what it's worth:


                                                                                                                            1. re: mbfant
                                                                                                                              bob96 Jul 22, 2010 10:17 AM

                                                                                                                              Maureen, to the extent that Alfredo "sauce" was indeed created in Rome and not in the kitchens of Neapolitan, Sicilian, Calabrese, or Genoese immigrants in the US, it's Italian. It migrated here tout court, even if it's long become a separate product, made and used in a way often removed from its origins. You'll also have a hard time convincing many Americans that something that dresses pasta is not a "sauce".
                                                                                                                              Mariana is indeed fuzzier, as you say. I don't knwo the source of c oliver's quotation, but I tend to agree with Arthur Schwartz when he talks about marinara in Neapolitan/Campanian cookery as a highly flavored tomato sauce with olives, capers, and some kind of fish (anchovies, tuna), eliding often into a puttanesca. Even though Neapolitan and Roman pizza alla marinara are much the same, save for the dough, of course. For some reason, fish-less marinara emerged in the US to describe the simplest and freshest of plain tomato sauces--it did in my Brooklyn Italian home in the 50s/60s--and has remained so today. What would a Roman call the Neapolitan pummarola? Would it be made with whole pelati or from a passato?

                                                                                                                              1. re: bob96
                                                                                                                                mbfant Jul 22, 2010 11:23 PM

                                                                                                                                Pommarola or pummarola is made with fresh tomatoes and not far removed from passata di pomodoro. In Rome, fresh tomato sauces often contain fresh basil and so are known as pomodoro e basilico, otherwise just sugo di pomodoro or pomodoro fresco, if that is the case.

                                                                                                                                As for what constitutes a sauce, this is an issue I have faced in my work. The Italians use salsa and sugo as generic terms, but if you want to cover anything that you could possibly put on pasta, you use "condimento." The verb is condire. Like a salad. In, for example, my translation of "Encyclopedia of Pasta," I make the distinction, whenever possible, between true sauces and something like carbonara, which is prepared directly on the cooked pasta. Bill Buford quotes Mario Batali on the importance of the term condimento, so I'm betting Americans will eventually get used to it.

                                                                                                                                As for "Alfredo sauce," my point is that it was NOT created in Rome. It is a foreign interpretation of a dish made in a Roman restaurant and named for that restaurant. That doesn’t make it Italian. If it's not Italian-American either, then there must be a third category, which we could call "faux Italian" (or italiano fasullo?), but honestly, some of the recipes for "Alfredo sauce" I have read on Chowhound would make any normal Italian feel ill.

                                                                                                                                1. re: mbfant
                                                                                                                                  bob96 Jul 23, 2010 12:34 AM

                                                                                                                                  I'm not sure condimento has any traction yet, despite Buford and Batali. I think it's a useful term, but I think much of Italian America really doesn't care, too busy staging pouting matches over "sauce" vs. "gravy". I don't know, we called everything that dressed pasta sauce, except of course when describing pasta cu ceci, c'alici, patate, ecc.

                                                                                                                                  Thanks for clarifiying Alfredo; maybe there's a category for Italian restaurant-only creations (or la cucina finta). In any case, those recipes you refer to on CH would make anyone ill. The emergence here in chain and not-chain casual dining places of pasta dishes that all seem to include chicken (shrimp), broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, all in a pesto Alfredo cream sauce over "penne pasta" give me the sweats just reading them on menus. Me, I'll take a bowl of lenticchie e ditalini and some sliced seasonal beefsteak tomatoes with garlic, oregano, and really good oil any day. I'd even take the tomato salad alone, maybe with alici, on top of whole wheat freselle or pane biscottato.

                                                                                                                          2. re: kappasan9
                                                                                                                            eatzalot Jul 27, 2010 04:50 PM

                                                                                                                            kappasan9 is of course right (please don't contradict a native Italian witness based on information looked up online, and for God's sake don't use Wikipedia to settle food questions -- half its food entries consist of armchair notions, misconstrued by some readers as authoritative because they're on Wikipedia).

                                                                                                                            Concept of Alfredo "sauce" has long been an abomination among US food enthusiasts who know a little about the subject, and the accurate story has long been available online, example link below, predating Wikipedia's and also explaining the reason for the frequent US "cream" misconception; also in books, e.g., J F Mariani, the standard modern US writer on Italian-American food, has publicized it; earlier, Waverly Root's standard US book "The Food of Italy" in the 1950s explained in detail the dish and its long existence (in less showy forms) as a regional specialty since ancient times. In fact, Alfredo "sauce" didn't even exist as a US product during most of my lifetime, it was a commercial idea to exploit the popularity of the dish and its variations.


                                                                                                                            1. re: eatzalot
                                                                                                                              paulj Jul 27, 2010 05:53 PM

                                                                                                                              What is wrong with the Wikipedia entry for Fettuccine alfredo? It seems to contain the same basic information as that usenet post. c. oliver is the only one who cites this Wiki article, and he does not use it to contradict kappasan9.

                                                                                                                              rec.food.cooking is no more, nor less, a food authority than Wikipedia or chowhound. Anyone who considers themselves knowledgeable can post or edit. In the case of Wikipedia, the editing process is transparent, and in many cases leads to general accuracy (especially for interesting, noncontroversial topics).

                                                                                                                              It may be a useful distinction to say there is an Italian pasta dish, Fettuccine alfredo, and an American 'sauce' that, indirectly, imitates the dish. The same could said for 'carbonara' (anything with bacon), or bruschetta (an Italian 'salsa').

                                                                                                                              1. re: paulj
                                                                                                                                eatzalot Jul 28, 2010 06:58 AM

                                                                                                                                paulj, I agree completely with your last paragraph. But please read my posting for what it is, not what it isn't.

                                                                                                                                I defended kappasan9 against the current bad habit of people disputing direct experience or eye-witnesses with fourth-hand information from online sources. I cited long awareness of the real "Alfredo" story among Americans interested in the subject, gave book examples, and a link to _one_ of several good online accounts of the story (Victor Sack, archivist of rec.food.cooking -- the original online food forum, since 1982 -- is an excellent food-history scholar in Europe and sometimes quotes sources hard to find and available nowhere else online). Obviously no self-edited source is consistently reliable, least of all newsgroups like RFC. But people evidently need to know about Wikipedia's problems with food topics, especially food history (I've encountered many examples because I often have better source material -- in the original, not online -- to compare). Unlike RFC, Wikipedia food entries are now often uncritically invoked, as if authoritative, by people trying to answer questions. First link below was a recent mention here on CH and the second gets my vote for the "purest" Wikipedia food-history gaffe: Wiki entry cites newspaper story, which in turn cites the same Wiki entry for authority -- this then picked up, unexamined, by other online references.


                                                                                                                                1. re: eatzalot
                                                                                                                                  c oliver Jul 28, 2010 07:45 AM

                                                                                                                                  As the person who cited Wiki, I did it for two reasons: (1) to me, the history of the dish is so well know that it didn't matter what source I used and (2) I was lazy :) To say that it's not an Italian dish when it was created/renamed by an Italian in Rome (regardless of why) was patently false.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                    eatzalot Jul 28, 2010 08:11 AM

                                                                                                                                    It's certainly true that the dish originated in Italy -- as the books I mentioned document, it was hardly Alfredo's creation, he used certain specific sources for the ingredients, and added showmanship; and as so often happens, popularizing a standard dish to a new audience got him dubbed "inventor."

                                                                                                                                    But (as with other dishes popularized or evolved in US, barely recognizeable in Italy, or perceived there as "American" -- US-type pizzas, Spagh. with meatballs, the "Manicotti" that Marcella Hazan condemned) it is known mainly in the US, under the Alfredo name, for the reason explained in the link I gave earlier (quoted below), and has also evolved, with cream and so on. So despite point of origin, it's beyond question an "American" dish today in the same practical sense as those other examples I just cited.

                                                                                                                                    "better known in the USA than in Italy. This is possibly due to the fact that it was made famous by such American stars as Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Sr., who used to frequent the original Alfredo restaurant in Rome.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: eatzalot
                                                                                                                                      c oliver Jul 28, 2010 08:46 AM

                                                                                                                                      Okey dokey. So if I go to that restaurant in Rome and have the dish, then it's Italian, but if I make the exact same dish at home it's Italian-American. That's pretty clear. Like the Caesar Salad, which is actually Mexican food, bring it across the border or ocean, and it's something else entirely. My comments to kappansan9 were based on the fact that s/he was making broad/pedantic statements. And just because someone was born in a certain country, it doesn't mean they know jack about the food. Or being born in one region doesn't make one knowledgeable about all regions. I'm actually bored senseless so am going out in the sunshine and do some manual labor :) Y'all have fun.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                        eatzalot Jul 28, 2010 09:25 AM

                                                                                                                                        "if I go to that restaurant in Rome and have the dish, then it's Italian, but if I make the exact same dish at home it's Italian-American" First, the fate of Alfredo di Lelio's original restaurant (he left the business) is complex, it's explained in the link I cited. Second, you won't likely make the same dish in the US because it evolved (same source: "use of cream in American restaurants for Fettuccine all'Alfredo is necessitated by the generally inferior quality of American butter" compared to the special butter di Lelio originally used).

                                                                                                                                        But speaking of getting things, the point of this topic was Italian vs Italian-American food, on which much accurate information has been published but still isn't widely known in the US (for example, Mariani on pizzas, originally a free-form geographically localized niche specialty, brought to US, evolved to the rather narrow US definition, and introduced from there to wider Italy, where they were welcomed as "American" food). A Italian-born witness in an excellent position to clarify popular US misconceptions cites a few, but rather than learn from this (or look into it and substantiate kappasan9's information, which is well supported by US sources), people immediately dispute those that clash with preconceptions. If Fettuccine all'Alfredo is mainstream in the US but little known in Italy, and is made differently in the US anyway, kappasan9's statement about it is accurate and reasonable.

                                                                                                                                        I'm tempted to start another topic detailing not just well-established US misconceptions about "Italian" food, but the arguments people employ to defend them.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: eatzalot
                                                                                                                                          paulj Jul 28, 2010 09:37 AM

                                                                                                                                          Joy of Cooking, 1964 edition
                                                                                                                                          Buttered Noodles or Fettuccini al Burro
                                                                                                                                          "Alfredo II came to Cincinnati to demonstrate the making of those noodles which brought both him and his father fame. He carried along from Italy the hard special flour needed for the dough and the hard Parmesan cheese and sweet butter for the tossing. Yet when the noodles were presented, he wished he had brought with him the Roman water in which to cook them."

                                                                                                                                          This recipe tosses the noodles with butter on the serving platter, and has the diners add the cheese.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: paulj
                                                                                                                                            coll Jul 28, 2010 09:49 AM

                                                                                                                                            You know, I've been getting the butter that is a by-product of parmesan cheese making, from Parma, in my regular grocery store. Pricy but not that bad. Next time I see it, I'm dying to make this the original way, never loved the creamy version that much anyway.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: eatzalot
                                                                                                                                            pikawicca Jul 28, 2010 05:34 PM

                                                                                                                                            Hell, I've made this dish for years and never used cream. That's another dish, entirely. Great Parm, premium butter and decent pasta and you're good to go. We have good water where I live, so that's not an issue.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                              coll Jul 28, 2010 07:41 PM

                                                                                                                                              I've made it occasionally for my husband with regular butter and parm. But has to be with pastina, some kind of childhood/grandma memory. With upgraded ingredients it sounds like a keeper.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                        calumin Feb 6, 2012 12:06 AM

                                                                                                                                        The dish that we in America call "Alfredo" is cream-based and bears little resemblance to the dish that you're saying was first created in Rome.

                                                                                                                                        But it is very likely that Italians in Boligna or Florence had been eating pasta "alla panna" before it ever became popular in the US.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: calumin
                                                                                                                                          eatzalot Feb 6, 2012 09:36 AM

                                                                                                                                          This thread is seriously re-hashing earlier content. calumin, I agree about pasta with cream long known in Italy; that combination has also been in US-published Italian cookbooks (with Italian authors) for many decades. But please read the several posts preceding yours about "Alfredo." For much of its history in the US, fettucini or "noodles" Alfredo was known, and recorded in mainstream cookbooks like Fannie Farmer and the JOC (quoted already above by paulj) in its classic form, a dish of noodles, Parmesan, and butter, just as it had been made around Rome for eons (as "fettucine _al burro_") before Alfredo made it into a particular showy tableside dish. Cream is a later US addition, for reasons repeatedly explained in print and online (references upthread).

                                                                                                                                          All I'm quibbling about here is the assertion that "we in America" consistently associate pasta "Alfredo" with cream; many of us don't, some are even old enough to remember when most people in America didn't; and various of us who don't have already explained all that, above, in this thread.

                                                                                                                                2. re: kappasan9
                                                                                                                                  ioggstream Sep 16, 2010 02:50 PM

                                                                                                                                  > kappasan9: no meatballs with your spaghetti
                                                                                                                                  90% right: it may be used as a shotcut for an home-lunch.

                                                                                                                                  It's mostly related to peasant cousine (eat-what-you-have-but-with-dignity) and usually not served to guests in standard italian cousine.

                                                                                                                                  My grand-mother from Abruzzo, anyway, serves fettuccine (not spaghetti) with meatballs, that should be cooked with the sauce. In that case, the meatballs should be small and few, to not overcome the second course anyway.

                                                                                                                                  About "Alfredo sauce": in Italy almost every restaurant has its chef's recipe: Mario's, Assunta's, Francesco's,...,

                                                                                                                                  Maybe the Alfredo name became notorious in US because americans like "trade-marks" but in Italy it's hard to find a chef serving plainly some other's recipe :P

                                                                                                                                3. a
                                                                                                                                  Avalondaughter Jul 13, 2010 12:01 PM

                                                                                                                                  What's "Italian" and what's "American"?

                                                                                                                                  Italy has many regions, and the cuisine will differn from region to region as some places have better farmland, some are closer to the ocean, some have shorter growing seasons, etc. Rice grows in norther Italy, but not in Sicily. You'll find more fish in coastal regions. It's like the cuisine of any country.

                                                                                                                                  In the US we had Italian immigrants. Most of them were from Southern Italy. There were Sicilians and Napoletani. They're not the only ones. I know quite a few Calabrese. My own great-grandfather was from Torino, although his wife was from Naples.

                                                                                                                                  You come to the new country, you cook what you know, but you have to cook it with what's available. If you're a poor peasant, imagine what a goldmine an American supermarket would be! There is plenty of stuff to experiment with. You have this incredible abudance of meat! You also have some key ingredients missing. You learn to substitute and make do. What happens? Your Italian recipes change. They change because you love all of this available meat. They change because no one has time for a pasta course and a meat course anymore. They change because you can't find just the right ingredients to make your grandmother's ______.

                                                                                                                                  Also Italians from different regions intermarried, which meant regional cuisines could mix as well.

                                                                                                                                  How many of us loved our grandmother's not-quite-authentic Italian cooking? What did we grow up accepting as Italian only to learn it wasn't? Was it still delicious even if it was a dish never served in Italy?

                                                                                                                                  I've come to learn that Italian-American food is a cuisine unto itself and can be done well and be delicious and have it's own brand of authenticity. Chicken parmigiana with fresh cheese and homemade sauce? Yum. Chicken scarpariello with wine and spciy sausage? Let me at it! How about spaghetti and meatballs served at the same time? I ate little else as a child. American style chicken cacciatore might make an Italian laugh, but I make a killer version myself.

                                                                                                                                  If you can afford to travel all over Italy and sample all of the regional delicacies, you are still allowed to enjoy Italian-American food.

                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: Avalondaughter
                                                                                                                                    anonymouse1935 Jul 13, 2010 01:29 PM

                                                                                                                                    You said it, and in one post.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Avalondaughter
                                                                                                                                      BubblyOne Jul 13, 2010 02:45 PM

                                                                                                                                      Excellent post! I've been reading through this thread and had some of the same thoughts; you expressed it so well. Even with my grandmother shopping at an Italian market in the 60s/70s, she would still complain about certain things that were not available and adapt. On the other hand, she was thrilled with all "new" things she found in CA.
                                                                                                                                      I wish she was alive to go into any upscale grocery now and see all that is available. Good parm/fresh pasta/all kinds of imported olive oil?
                                                                                                                                      I'm grateful that we now have the choice to make pretty much any recipe we want with a little research and effort, be it I-A or more traditional.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Avalondaughter
                                                                                                                                        lagatta Jul 13, 2010 04:45 PM

                                                                                                                                        Italian food of the Americas, whether of the US, Argentina, Canada, Venezuela or elsewhere is a perfectly valid cuisine (or rather cuisines). Avalon, in Argentina your great-grandfather would have been in the majority; most of the first Italian migrants to Argentina and Uruguay were from the Northwest (Piemonte and Liguria). Towit, the pasqualina/pascualina - there are other posts on this springtime pie.

                                                                                                                                        It wasn't even a supermarket for people a century ago, but the incredible abundance of meat. And even produce in all seasons, to some extent.

                                                                                                                                        Funny about homemade wine and Prohibition. For Italians, outlawing wine is like outlawing tomatoes, pasta, salad or bread. Utterly nonsensical. You don't do that, you shame the drunkard for not respecting "la bella figura". Not restricted to upper classes, it also referred to human dignity.

                                                                                                                                      2. Chinon00 Jul 10, 2010 08:26 PM

                                                                                                                                        The year was 1994. A bunch of us drove from Philly to Boston's North End to watch the World Cup Final. One of my friends is from Florence, Italy. While there I asked him did he feel at home here. He asked "why"? I responded "well many of the signs are in Italian and you can hear some Italian being spoken". He interrupted "yeah but this is Italian culture from 100 hundred years ago with American culture mixed in. I'm a modern Italian".
                                                                                                                                        And having traveled to Rome, Milan, Florence, Genoa, Venice "Italian" food is very different from region to region there.

                                                                                                                                        15 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Chinon00
                                                                                                                                          Paulustrious Jul 13, 2010 07:03 AM

                                                                                                                                          I understand his perspective. I live with an Italian family. They came out of Italy after the second world war. The depression and grinding poverty of Southern Italy from Abruzzo South to Sicily forced many to leave, ripping apart families. This diaspora led my SO's family to spread out across Italy, Sicily, Argentina, Germany, USA, Canada and a few other places.

                                                                                                                                          They took their recipes, beliefs and prejudices with them. When they arrived in Argentina, New York, Boston and Toronto they found (and founded) communities. For many years these thrived till the succeeding generations gradually shed their Italian lifestyles. So my FIL speaks little English after leaving Italy over 50 years ago. A day without pasta is a day without sun. Polenta is fine. Risotto is good, but almost no other rice dish is acceptable. Red meats are unusual except for veal cutlets and sausages. Snails are good. So is calimari, plain pizza, fried (coated) fish and vegetable soups. Anything can be slow braised in tomato sauce. But after that we are at his culinary event horizon. Nothing is ever rare.

                                                                                                                                          Here in Toronto, fast-food by-passed that generation. Italian cafes sprang up, staffed and visited solely by Italians. The Greeks and Eastern Europeans had their own. Home cooking was the norm, at least until the pizza factories arrived. This quick, cheap and satisfying meal migrated from mamma and papà places aimed at Italians to the chains we know to day, although the independents still thrive.

                                                                                                                                          Meanwhile the other cheap and cheerful food - pasta - also went mainstream. And the reason was because it was cheap and cheerful. In Italian households it was still served as a first course. It took the place of the potato of Northern Europeans, except it was split out from the main meal. It was the filler prior to the expensive part of the meal. But America (and Canada and now Europe) cannot resist large quantities. Pasta became the meal in itself.

                                                                                                                                          We tend to forget that Italy is only 150 years old and its foodstuffs varied dramatically from the Alps to Sicily. Much of the traditional food came of necessity in terms of preservation and storage. But the bit that came to the USA was mainly Southern Italy. The better-educated and wealthier Northern Italians, with their wider variety of foods had less emigration.

                                                                                                                                          My idea of Italian restaurants was formulated in London, UK. The menus were almost identical, from antipasto to zabaglione, with the obligatory frutti di mare embedded somewhere within.

                                                                                                                                          Then (35 years ago) I went to work in Italy and France and ate in their restaurants - but not their houses. The restaurants were of differing types: breakfast joints, cafes, bakeries, trattorias and ristorantes.

                                                                                                                                          Fast forward twenty years to Miami. An Italian restaurant was a chain or a pizza place. Somewhere like Cami's where you pick and perm your pasta and meat/chicken/seafood before finally deciding on red, white or pink sauce. It felt as Italian as a Cornish pastie.

                                                                                                                                          Move on 5 years to Toronto. Here, some Italian restaurants, run by Italians, survive. I guess that is true in New York and Boston. But they generally resemble each other, carved out of a Southern Italian heritage and a population's belief of what an 'Italian Restaurant' looks like.

                                                                                                                                          Time to shut up before I offend even more people.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                                                                            thew Jul 13, 2010 07:30 AM

                                                                                                                                            actually, pasta went mainstream because of prohibition. Italian mom and pop spaghetti places were allowed to some degree to serve wine. it was some of the only legal alcohol available. so spaghetti places became very very popular

                                                                                                                                            1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                              Paulustrious Jul 13, 2010 09:12 AM

                                                                                                                                              One lives and learns. I hadn't realised wine was available during prohibition. Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad after all.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                monavano Jul 13, 2010 09:22 AM

                                                                                                                                                And my affection for spaghetti places grows ever more ;-)

                                                                                                                                                1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                  pikawicca Jul 13, 2010 01:36 PM

                                                                                                                                                  Wine was served at Italian restaurants during Prohibition?

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                    MVNYC Jul 13, 2010 02:26 PM

                                                                                                                                                    Wine was served at Speak Easys during prohibition and many of these were run by immigrants. Italians made up a large portion of these and they served the food they knew only with more protein and as a main dish. So while it was illegal it still managed to spread the love of pasta.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MVNYC
                                                                                                                                                      pikawicca Jul 13, 2010 04:38 PM

                                                                                                                                                      I didn't realize that speak easys served food. Thanks for the info.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                        Paulustrious Jul 14, 2010 08:25 AM

                                                                                                                                                        I just had to check up on something...

                                                                                                                                                        The plural is speakeasies. What a strange looking word. Looks like a Greek desert.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                                                                                          Perilagu Khan Jul 14, 2010 09:38 AM

                                                                                                                                                          I didn't realize that there was a desert in Greece.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                            Paulustrious Jul 14, 2010 10:13 AM

                                                                                                                                                            Once more my petard is on hoisting overtime.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                                                                                              thew Jul 14, 2010 10:16 AM

                                                                                                                                                              a little peppermint or ginger should help with that

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                Perilagu Khan Jul 14, 2010 10:21 AM

                                                                                                                                                                But I have heard that inserting peppermint into one's petard can be quite painful.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                  thew Jul 14, 2010 11:05 AM

                                                                                                                                                                  some people pay extra for that

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                    Paulustrious Jul 14, 2010 04:29 PM

                                                                                                                                                                    Only spearmint.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                                                                                    coll Jul 13, 2010 04:29 PM

                                                                                                                                                    So glad I read your post, I grew up on rice and was always mystified that my husband had no interest. Except risotto, he will always eat. Now I understand, it's not in his mind, it's in the DNA.

                                                                                                                                                2. Firegoat Jul 10, 2010 04:40 PM

                                                                                                                                                  I admit to liking real italian and americanized italian ... just like sometimes I want the sweet over the top chinese food..... I'm happy I live in a country where I have so many options.

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Firegoat
                                                                                                                                                    RealMenJulienne Jul 11, 2010 07:18 AM

                                                                                                                                                    I'm with you. Here in Beijing, I sometimes just want a food court bourbon chicken combo plate, with greasy green beans, and a huge-ass blistered egg roll filled with cabbage.

                                                                                                                                                  2. Firegoat Jul 10, 2010 02:33 PM

                                                                                                                                                    I think I really respected Italian food more after I read "Heat" by Bill Buford.... the 2nd half at least where he goes to Italy and learns to cook

                                                                                                                                                    1. RealMenJulienne Jul 10, 2010 07:01 AM

                                                                                                                                                      I don't know what real Italian food is, but for quintessential Italian-American food and ambiance, just take one look at Sabatino's in Chicago. Actually, Sabatino's is what comes to my mind when I think of the word, "restaurant". The place is super-old school in a Rat-Packish way, with low lighting, a piano lounge, violin guys who stroll around the dining rooms, red wine on the tables, etc. I don't remember if the tablecloths are red-and-white-checked but it is the kind of place where they should be.

                                                                                                                                                      The food is a solid rendition of the classics, like Chicken Vesuvio, veal saltimbocca, lasagne made with ricotta, spaghetti and meatballs, etc. Portions are large and meat-heavy which I guess might be an indicator of the American influence. Oh and I'm pretty sure they don't eat desserts like Bananas Foster or Baked Alaska in Italy.

                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                                                                                                                                        Perilagu Khan Jul 10, 2010 04:12 PM

                                                                                                                                                        Sure sounds like my kind of place. The antithesis of the precious and the mincing that seems to define fine dining in the Western world today.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                          RealMenJulienne Jul 11, 2010 06:53 AM

                                                                                                                                                          If you ever make it to Chicago, definitely try it out. I consider Sabatino's a Chicago must-visit. Not for the food necessarily, which is "just" competently done Italian-American with no surprises, but for the whole package of food, service, and atmosphere. Most entrees are only like $18-20 so you won't go broke there either.

                                                                                                                                                          This is definitely a place to convice people who find no value in americanized ethnic cuisine.

                                                                                                                                                      2. k
                                                                                                                                                        kjonyou Jul 9, 2010 04:02 PM

                                                                                                                                                        I dont know about you, but I get tired of relitives living on the East Coast visiting Californa alwasy complaining they cant get good pizza or italian food here. Since most of them have never even been to Itally, I find it an extreemly bizarr rationalization that that real Italin food only comes from Jersey. When I point out ther version is an adaptation of another country, they somehow see it as an improvment they made, but think no one else can do the same or its just not real.

                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: kjonyou
                                                                                                                                                          Cachetes Jul 10, 2010 07:12 AM

                                                                                                                                                          I imagine it's somewhat analogous to the Westcoasters who like to come East and then complain about the lack of good Mexican food.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: kjonyou
                                                                                                                                                            lagatta Jul 11, 2010 06:53 AM

                                                                                                                                                            That is odd, giving the old Italian farming and winemaking colonies in California, and the Mediterranean climate where most Italian products (including olives) can be grown.

                                                                                                                                                          2. Firegoat Jul 9, 2010 08:20 AM

                                                                                                                                                            When I think of typical American-style Italian cuisine, I think of the Spaghetti Warehouse chain.

                                                                                                                                                            1. BiscuitBoy Jul 7, 2010 07:12 AM

                                                                                                                                                              Real Italian food is mostly peasant food, simple, nutritious fare that many holier-than-thou foodie types would have turned up their noses at 20 yrs ago. Things like panna cotta, pasta fagiola, dandelion greens, broccoli rabe, escarole and beans, risotto, tomato and biscotti. As an Italian American, I find it amusing to see people actually going to restos and paying top dollar for stuff like this, and suddenly becoming experts because they overpaid for a meal at places like del posto or raos. And don't get me started on folks who happen to travel to Italy, eat a few local dishes, and have the nerve to put out a cookbook, presiding like lord of master of the cuisine. I wouldn't read an Asian cookbook written by joe johnson, so why would I give any cred to an Italian cookbook author named ira goldberg...le persone sono pazze

                                                                                                                                                              43 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: BiscuitBoy
                                                                                                                                                                thew Jul 7, 2010 07:23 AM

                                                                                                                                                                because joe johnson or ira goldberg might just be excellent chefs, well versed in the cuisine?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                  BiscuitBoy Jul 7, 2010 07:41 AM

                                                                                                                                                                  Always exceptions, but not likely to see joe johnson at any of the momofukus or matsuri

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: BiscuitBoy
                                                                                                                                                                  bookhound Jul 7, 2010 07:30 AM

                                                                                                                                                                  So Diana Kennedy can't be an expert in Mexican cooking and Fuschia Dunlop can't be expert in Chinese cooking? Ok, I'm glad you've set me straight.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: bookhound
                                                                                                                                                                    BiscuitBoy Jul 7, 2010 07:52 AM

                                                                                                                                                                    Those who can, DO...those who can't, well, you know!

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: BiscuitBoy
                                                                                                                                                                      bookhound Jul 7, 2010 08:21 AM

                                                                                                                                                                      I'm confused now. So it's okay for Kennedy to write and teach about Mexican food but not cook that kind of food?

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: bookhound
                                                                                                                                                                        johnb Jul 7, 2010 09:02 AM

                                                                                                                                                                        I'm afraid BuscuitBoy is dead wrong on this one. Clearly someone such as Fushcia Dunlop (Sichuan), or Julia Child (French), or Rick Bayliss (Mexican), can be and is an expert on those cuisines. Who is going to tell anyone that Julia Child's interpretation of French food cannot be trusted to be authentic? Nonsense.

                                                                                                                                                                        I think one fundamental problem that has been brought out by this thread is the tendency we all have to employ shortcuts in our thinking. The term "Italian food" is thrown about, but in fact there is no such thing as "Italian" food. Italy as a monolithic thing is a political concept, not a cultural or culinary one, and a fairly recent one at that, really having been finally unified around 1870. But is was and remains an amalgam of many different states, each with its own history, culture, and cuisine. The tomato-sauce based dishes of the south are either unknown or actively avoided in the north. The immigrants to the Northeast US came predominantly from the South, tho I believe the community on the west coast came largely from more northerly areas. So "Italian" food is thought, in the US, to be tomato-sauce based, while in Italy itself this is confined to a limited area. It is pointless to get into discussions of "authenticity" when the basic term "Italian food" is actually meaningless, or at least very poorly defined. Further confusion is created when the discussion turns to foods that aren't even Italian by any definition, such as spaghetti and meatballs, which were created here but so long ago that everybody accepts them as "Italian" (there are some limited but true Italian precursors, but not at all the dish as it is made in the US).

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: johnb
                                                                                                                                                                          greedygirl Jul 8, 2010 02:39 AM

                                                                                                                                                                          Italian food, in my experience, varies hugely from region to region, although obviously you can get a decent pizza and plate of pasta pretty much everywhere.

                                                                                                                                                                          I always think of spaghetti with meatballs as being American-Italian. And huge pizzas dripping with cheese.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: greedygirl
                                                                                                                                                                            italtrav Jul 9, 2010 06:44 PM

                                                                                                                                                                            Actually, although pizza is now widespread, getting great pizza in, say Venice, is analogous to finding fabulous BBQ in Minneapolis or cioppino in Dubuque. It's possible, but not all that likely. And if you asked a Neapolitan about Venetian pizza, he'd be at risk of death from laughing way too hard.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                              Perilagu Khan Jul 10, 2010 04:10 PM

                                                                                                                                                                              I found the pizza in Venice to be superb, probably better than the best I found while living in New Jersey. And a friend of mine, who is a medieval art historian specializing in the ecclesiastical art of Naples, found the pizza in Naples (sodden and undercooked) to be repulsive.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                italtrav Jul 10, 2010 07:06 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                And I'm sure there is terrible BBQ to be had in Memphis and a fabulous place somewhere in Bangor. But, as you should have already read from mbfant, there is only a single wood-fired oven in all of Venice, pizza is not remotely native to the city (although some fine Neapolitan pizza-maker could have moved up there), and so your friend's experiences are (to say the least) odd—and at odds with the opinion of virtually all Italians. Few Venetians, however proud of their city, would boast of the quality of pizza veneziana.

                                                                                                                                                                                Napoli is, literally, the birthplace of pizza and, according to most fans of the food, *the* place to seek it out. I myself have eaten a passable pizza in Venezia (once) and a good many fabulous pizzas in Napoli, Pompei, Pozzuoli and other points from Roma south. And that is the the norm.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                  greedygirl Jul 11, 2010 12:57 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm going to Calabria in a week's time - can't wait to try me some Neapolitan pizza! Although there is a very good (and renowned) Neapolitan style pizzeria complete with wood-fired ovens 5 minutes from my house in London. It will be interesting to compare.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: greedygirl
                                                                                                                                                                                    bob96 Jul 11, 2010 03:46 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                    Enjoy your trip to Calabria (we visit family there often) but don't be surprised if la vera pizza napoletana isn't everywhere--it's often treated as a kind of exotic speciality, although pizzerie, obviously, are everywhere--had a very good wood oven but not Neapolitan pie in Tropea.. I've been treated wth great pride to pizza at a very popular pizzeria/birreria in Reggio di Calabria that was really closer to, say, Bertucci's here than Brandi in Naples. But it was good eating and my family enjoyed it. So did I. On the other hand, the pecorino and 'nduja and swordfish and stocco al forno and maccheroni con ragu and peperoncino...

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                    Bada Bing Jul 11, 2010 03:44 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                    I can't resist pointing out here that my own present "image" or "avatar" for Chowhound is from a sign at a pizza shop in Venice, advertizing a Pizza Americana" that features bacon and eggs, the latter of which (eggs) hardly any American puts on a pizza.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Just keeping the tangled web going...

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                      Perilagu Khan Jul 11, 2010 08:41 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                      I think we often get hung up on the notion that a particular food can only be found at its acme in its native locale. Now I will be the first to admit that there is some truth to this--I would never order Texas chili in Genova--but then I don't believe Venice and Naples are so disparate that superior pizza has not managed to migrate the thousand or so miles from the latter to the former.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Now what's interesting about my friend's experience in Naples is the fact that the pizza recommended to her was done so by a native Neapolitan and professor at the university there (Univ. of Naples?). My friend bit into this pie and commented that it seemed soggy and underdone. Her friend said, "Yes! That's the way it's supposed to be! Isn't it delicious?" My friend departed Naples none too impressed with pizza from the cradle of pizzahood!

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                        thew Jul 11, 2010 08:52 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                        exactly right. "authentic" does not mean better. having spent a great deal of time in india over the years i'd have to say i've had plenty of authentic indian food that was not good. low quality ingredients. poor technique. etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                        all references to a golden age in the past are fantasy

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                          italtrav Jul 11, 2010 12:00 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                          "I don't believe Venice and Naples are so disparate that superior pizza has not managed to migrate the thousand or so miles from the latter to the former."

                                                                                                                                                                                          I think you ought to believe it. Italian cookery is intensely local, and I'm very reluctant to conclude much about Neapolitan pizza from your friend's limited experience. I'm also reminded of Enzo Biaggi's description of a moment from a postwar Italian film, an old lady leaning from a train window to call out this warning: "Sono cattive gente a Melanu—mangiano riso!" [There are evil folk in Milano—they eat rice!]. Meantime, how is it that decent pastrami doesn't migrate from NYC to Atlanta?

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                            thew Jul 11, 2010 12:26 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                            "Meantime, how is it that decent pastrami doesn't migrate from NYC to Atlanta?"

                                                                                                                                                                                            because people don't care enough to insist on a better product. it isn't impossible to do, just hasn't been worth the expense

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                              Perilagu Khan Jul 11, 2010 02:08 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                              How is it that what some consider the best pizza in the world is found at Pizza Bianco in Phoenix, Arizona of all places, yet it cannot hop the Po and find its way to Venice?

                                                                                                                                                                                              Now I know Italian food is quite regional, but I find the notion of fine pizza's absence from Venice--how shall I say it?--hard to swallow.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                Bada Bing Jul 11, 2010 03:06 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                For Perilaghu Khan: When I ask why myself you would insist on any point about Venice (or Italy) without having been there, I can only conclude that there is something you actually wish to believe about it, about Italy, and/or about food regions more generally. And from reading your other posts, I can see that you are impatient with people who complain in potentially snobby tones about how things here or there just aren't good enough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I do support your disposition to look on the bright side of each environment. I agree that food culture in the USA is massively and obviously expanded beyond what it was a few decades ago. Also, like you, I find it very tedious when people complain about what's on offer in various regions--like when I moved from CA to Michigan and met numerous cranky expatriated New Yorkers who couldn't find a decent bagel. It's true that NY style bagels are hard to find in MI (and I love them, although in CA I also had not exprienced them), but it's ugly to moan and complain. To my thinking, I thought people should just take note of the corn, peaches, blueberries, morels, tart cherries, etc., of Michigan, and get in touch with where they are!

                                                                                                                                                                                                All that said, I also feel that you are resisting some facts, and without due grounds. Europeans in general are very local and proud about food traditions, and a Neapolitan pizza joint in Venice, if it exists, would be even a bit more far out than a North Carolina barbecue joint opening up in Seattle. It can happen, but it's rare, not routine, liable to be unappreciated, and perhaps outright non-existent or short-lived.

                                                                                                                                                                                                A tangential example: when I lived for a year or so in Germany, I noticed that one of the terrific local bakeries started to offer some turnover pastries that they called Quarktaschen (a kind of cream cheese turnover). Then suddenly they stopped offering them. I went in for a few weeks asking for them, and was told several times that they didn't have any. Eventually, I understood that they only made these for two or three weeks per year. Maybe they were a Lenten item. In any case, I was very provoked as an American, because all I could think was that here was this great pastry and people would surely buy it all year around if it were on offer. But that bakery would never dream of making those things simply because they could sell more. The issue for them was the tradition.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Bada Bing
                                                                                                                                                                                                  pikawicca Jul 11, 2010 03:18 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                  And I've had great pizza in Germany, particularly Munich -- lots of Italian immigrants.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Bada Bing
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Perilagu Khan Jul 12, 2010 06:50 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Just for the record--and I thought I had made this point earlier--I have been to Venice and I have eaten a great deal of pizza there. Indeed, the first meal I ate in Venice was at a tiny, and very jam-packed pizza joint very close to the Accademia. It was marvelous.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    And a second point: I'm more skeptical that great pizza doesn't exist in Venice (having eaten the stuff!) than I am about a carbon copy of Neapolitan pizza not existing in Venice, although I find both arguments a bit of a stretch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Bada Bing Jul 12, 2010 08:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Sorry to have overlooked any point at which you said you'd been there. I'm not always clear about such points in these very long threads, and something about your phrasing was maybe making me think otherwise. My bad.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bada Bing
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Perilagu Khan Jul 12, 2010 08:53 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        No big deal. I've made the same mistake on some of these Tolstoyan threads.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                    italtrav Jul 11, 2010 05:58 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I will hope someday to get to Phoenix. I'm sure it is good pizza. I am, however, skeptical of pretty much all claims that ______ is the best pizza/cheesecake/hamburger/chopped liver/espresso in the world. Barring an agreed-upon standard, these are all impossible sorts of determinations—as when, some years ago, Patricia Wells foolishly announced that Da Fiore in Venice was not merely the best restaurant in Venice, but in all of Italy. For the rest, I think Bada Bing says just below everything else I could usefully add on this topic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                      mbfant Jul 12, 2010 09:25 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Amen. Those superlatives give me the pip. I think it's possible to establish criteria for excellence, but after that it's a matter of preference. After all, there's always something one hasn’t tried yet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                    barryg Jul 29, 2010 09:59 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                    "Now I know Italian food is quite regional, but I find the notion of fine pizza's absence from Venice--how shall I say it?--hard to swallow."

                                                                                                                                                                                                    It wouldn't surprise me. I think this is a fair parallel: I have access to more varieties of German beer in a single take-out store in the United States than my friend living in Germany has in the entire city of Hamburg. That is not an exaggeration.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    This speaks to the hyper-locality of European food/drink traditions and the amazing appetite for variety and new tastes of Americans. Both have their place and should be celebrated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: barryg
                                                                                                                                                                                                      honkman Jul 29, 2010 10:22 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      You have access to hunderds of beers from Germany in a single store ? I come from Hamburg and there are single beer shops which have far more than 100 beers available. The "hyper-locality" might be real in certain very small parts of Europe but you can't generalize it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: honkman
                                                                                                                                                                                                        barryg Jul 30, 2010 06:52 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        No, not hundreds, so I humbly stand corrected. Without getting too OT: What shops in Hamburg offer this selection?

                                                                                                                                                                                                  4. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                    limster Jul 11, 2010 03:34 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                    But that's not how my native Neapolitan friend describes their pizza. It's worth noting that because of the thin crust and the juicy, olive-oil rich sauce, the best Neapolitan pizza I've had needed to be eaten within 5-10mins from the oven or it would indeed become soggy. But in that 5min window fresh from the oven, it was glorious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: limster
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Perilagu Khan Jul 12, 2010 06:52 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      It sounds great. And I hope to be able to experience this in person some day soon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                      ShepherdBGoode Aug 1, 2010 06:19 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      My. God.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      I have spent a grand total of 8 hours in Italy, and it was in Naples, 1967. I could hardly wait to get a slice of real Napoli pizza, as the guys from Jersey and Providence had been braggin' it up all the way over. And it was soggy and underdone. And now you're telling me that it was supposed to be that way? Yoy, and double yoy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ShepherdBGoode
                                                                                                                                                                                                        lagatta Aug 3, 2010 08:56 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I've had excellent pizza in Naples, in Rome, and even in Perugia. You can have a bad meal anywhere, especially in heavily-touristed areas. I had dreadful, overpriced pizza in Venice - yes, of course I knew it wasn't at all a Venetian dish, but the supposedly authentic restaurants in the city centre were far too expensive. I had a very good meal the next day at a small restaurant recommended by a Venetian lawyer who was a colleague of friends in Italy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Bob W Jul 12, 2010 08:21 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      "And I'm sure there is terrible BBQ to be had in Memphis and a fabulous place somewhere in Bangor."

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The former is a certainty, the latter is highly unlikely.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      There's lots of bad pizza in NYC, lots of bad Cuban food in Miami, and lots of bad seafood on Cape Cod. But do you think there's a great bagel to be had in Oklahoma City?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      My chowhounding motto has always been two-fold:

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Go native. (Forget the bagel in OKC.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Trust but verify. (Go for barbecue in Memphis, but use resources to find the good stuff, since it's not all good. In the pre-Internet days, I actually used to pick barbecue places out of the Yellow Pages when traveling through the Carolinas.)

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: bookhound
                                                                                                                                                                                              Chemicalkinetics Jul 7, 2010 09:13 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                              I think what BiscuitBoy meant is that there are "folks who happen to travel to Italy, eat a few local dishes, and have the nerve to put out a cookbook". This is true.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                                                                                                                bookhound Jul 7, 2010 09:23 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                He also said, "I wouldn't read an Asian cookbook written by joe johnson, so why would I give any cred to an Italian cookbook author named ira goldberg". This is maybe true in BiscuitBoy's case but it's a ridiculous statement.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: bookhound
                                                                                                                                                                                                  BiscuitBoy Jul 7, 2010 09:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Opinions vary...I'm just a bit more particular who I would deem "expert", and where my book dollar goes. And you can be an expert in a scholarly way, or master of the craft, alla bayliss, tsai, pepin, even stellino

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: BiscuitBoy
                                                                                                                                                                                                    bookhound Jul 7, 2010 09:41 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                    So one has to run a restaurant to be a "master of the craft"?

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: BiscuitBoy
                                                                                                                                                                                                      K K Jul 7, 2010 11:47 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Why waste $ on most cookbooks when you can borrow quite them from your local library for free.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: bookhound
                                                                                                                                                                                                      bob96 Jul 7, 2010 01:11 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      It sure is. There's mostly junk out there, independent of ethnicity, and the cliched Tuscan farmhouse wet dream "memoir" is now officially a joke. But show me a better US-authored book on the food of Naples than Arthur Schwartz's, or on Sicily's than Mary Taylor Simeti's or on Liguria's (or Friuli's) than Fred Plotkin's or on Italian wine than Burton Anderson's. The list goes on, even if we respect and love Italian American authors like Viana LaPlace, David Ruggiero, Nancy Verde Barr, Lidia Bastianich, ecc.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Jeez, as an Italian American who grew up eating lenticchie e pasta in the Brooklyn 1950s/60s, I'm the first to sniff out culinary pretention and fakery. But I also cringe at the crimes committed in the name of la cucina nostra by my fellow ethnics. Memory is not history, nor is what nonna used to make for la vigilia always a benchmark of, well, authenticity or tradition or quality.

                                                                                                                                                                                            3. re: BiscuitBoy
                                                                                                                                                                                              italtrav Jul 8, 2010 07:32 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                              There's a sense in which Italian cooking has a substantial heritage from a place that was until very recently largely agrarian and not particularly affluent, but to say that "real Italian food is mostly peasant food" overstates the case. There are plenty of bourgeois roots, let alone the Sicilian Monzù cookery of the aristocrats, e.g. I don't know Goldberg or his book, but there is no reason whatsoever that a foreigner can't become an expert in some other cuisine—with example of both writers and chefs too numerous to mention. I agree that people are crazy, but as a non-Italian American, allow me to suggest that "le persone sono pazze" is literal, but scarcely idiomatic. I'd offer, "È pazzesco, il mondo" or more likely the gentler, "paese che vai, usanza che trovi."

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                pdxgastro Jul 9, 2010 11:39 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                Among my friends we say 'paesi che vai, cibi che mangi'. But then again, we're chowhounds ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: pdxgastro
                                                                                                                                                                                                  italtrav Jul 10, 2010 06:23 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks for the variant. I'll have it embroidered on my escutcheon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                  lagatta Jul 11, 2010 06:51 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                  "Il mondo è bello perché è vario" is another relevant expression. Often used ironically.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. t
                                                                                                                                                                                                toomuchfat Jul 7, 2010 05:31 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                Are you guys that are complaining that Italian-American food is too sweet eating at decent Italian-American restaurants or are you eating fuckin' Franco-American Spaghettios? Red sauce Italian can be "oversauced" compared to what you get in Italy but it isn't necessarily sweet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: toomuchfat
                                                                                                                                                                                                  monavano Jul 7, 2010 06:03 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                  F'in FA Spaghettios! As a kid, Mom used to serve Chef Boyardee canned ravioli (I think Spaghettios, too) every once in a blue moon, when say, she and Dad would be eating liver and didn't make me eat it (still hate it).
                                                                                                                                                                                                  That junk food was SO rare*, that it was a treat to me. Now, I'd gag, of course, but I remember digging in!
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Beenie Weenies, or Franks n Beans was another junk food I was allowed, but it was not very often.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  I truly do appreciate her cooking just about every single night, and spaghetti and homemade meatballs was part of her balliwick of recipies. Also steak Parmesan (a fave!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: toomuchfat
                                                                                                                                                                                                    anonymouse1935 Jul 7, 2010 07:27 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Hah, funny post toomuchfat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Of course you're right.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ditto, BiscuitBoy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: toomuchfat
                                                                                                                                                                                                      italtrav Jul 9, 2010 06:43 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Commercial Italian-American tomato sauces nearly always contain added sugar. On the whole, tomato sauce recipes in this country list sugar as an ingredient. This is an attempt to make up for the sauce-making deficiencies of American tomatoes. I've had great tomato sauce in America, both in homes and restaurants, but it's the exception, not the rule, and delicate tomato sauces are practically unknown here.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      I've eaten Spaghetti-os (sp?), but not since I was at Boy Scout camp about 45 years ago. Can't even begin to imagine why I would do so today. I once brought a can of spaghetti to a friend in Italy as a joke. Couldn't get him to do more than sniff at the stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Perilagu Khan Jul 9, 2010 01:32 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        That's more than you could get me to do with an octopus dredged up from a Venetian lagoon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                          italtrav Jul 9, 2010 06:38 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Good—more for me! And pass the cuttlefish, while you're at it, in the cuttlefish ink sauce. And some of those cute little crabs. And the langoustines. I'd kill for anything even approaching the Rialto fish market in NYC!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                            pikawicca Jul 9, 2010 06:41 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Try NOLA.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. b
                                                                                                                                                                                                      bob96 Jul 7, 2010 12:03 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      If you're asking about home cooking, the answer is complicated by different histories: "American Italian" home food cooked by Italian-Americans is almost impossible to snapshot: after, say, 80 years, Italian American families that proudly eat "authentic" are usually eating a time-capsuled, mostly Neapolitan or generically Southern cuisine with endless variants--most all of them proudly defended as "real, form nonna". May be. But the vast majority of the 20+ million Italians ended up cooking Italian dishes, and eating in ways, they never did in Italy, except for occasional festive specialities. Calabrians and Genoese both became Italians here. Material abundance, chages in products/sources, more mobility, cooking for hordes of hungry American customers, and other factors, plus mixing with non-Italian worlds sort of settled a middle of the road repertoire, agaion, wth countless "tradtional" variants, many based on regional cultures later generations here know nothing of. In Italt today, regional dishes still hold, but there's a great and, for Italy, unprecedented move to a more national cuisine--leaner, more expensive, even more cosmopolitan, just as it now honors and supports local/"genuine" cheeses, meats, breads, and other foods. Not everyone eats antipasto/primo/secondo--certainly hardly at all in the evening, when a pizza will do. So some styles converge (and eggplant parmigiana is a native dish, as are meatballs, even with (after) pasta). Restaurant cooking is a whole different ball game, what with the relatively recent influx of once-prohibited Italian products, of young Italian cooks, and the exposure of American travelers of all backgrounds to la cucina italiana. Here, simple old dishes (plain polenta, pasta with potatoes, or beans and greens) drop out, replaced by new waves of invented traditions.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Another difference might be the universal Italian obsession with the dish they're eating--their table talk is not always based on any superior knowledge, but is driven by a value for properly made dishes and quality ingredients.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. o
                                                                                                                                                                                                        ola Jul 6, 2010 04:41 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Even the Italians don't eat like the Italians of yore. My friend from Northern Italy went back for the first time since his mid-20s and said that everyone in his town is now health conscious.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        John said that his extended family and friends are now cutting calories. Gone are the huge plates of polenta and pasta replaced with leaner cuts of meat and more vegies.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Though he missed the food, for the first time he didn't come back to the States 20 pounds heavier.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. monavano Jul 6, 2010 01:18 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                          My thought is that in Italian-American restaurants, the progression of the meal is different. It's more app/salad, entree then dessert, while authentic Italian restaurants have primi, secondi, contorni (sp? sorry). Of course, the pasta portions are very different, and everything is not on one plate.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          I remember being perplexed ordering at a real Italian restaurant the first couple of times. My experience growing up in the NE part of the country afforded me only Americanized versions of the real thing.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          But, I still dig spaghetti with meatballs and a plate of chicken parm that's overflowing the plate. When I visit my hometown of Philadelphia, I enjoy the local mom and pop's, right down to the side of spaghetti, slathered with generic sauce and accompanied by nearly tasteless powdered parm in a shaker jar!
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Hey, sometimes you can go back home, culinarily speaking, that is

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. K K Jul 6, 2010 01:15 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                            When I was in Italy 6 years back, during a visit to Pisa, the restaurants/eateries very close to the entrance of the leaning tower offered Italian food to tourists....literally pre-cooked lasagna, spaghetti with meatballs, and pretty horrendous looking pepperoni pizza. When you pay, they microwave it for you, and it comes out lukewarm. I don't know if this is meant to make fun of American tourists, or akin to setting up a Mickey's in Pisa, but really slim pickins unless you are willing to navigate the outskirts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            American Italian in the US seems to be just one style of restaurant for the most part (of course there are exclusively pizza joints and other exceptions). In Italy you have trattoria, osteria, ristorante, pizzeria (and more), and they can be equally confusing to a lot of folks. For most trattoria and ristorante, it's not like you can walk in and order a plate of pasta and call it a day....they expect you to make a full course meal out of it...appetizer, primo piatti, secondi, perhaps a contorno (vegetable side dish) dessert and maybe an espresso or nightcap. It's this hassle that sometimes drives me to sneaking out a piece of bread from the hotel breakfast buffet along with some cured meat, rather than pay an exorbitant amount for a crusty local sandwich during lunch, that isn't much better.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I don't recall seeing spaghetti with meatballs in various parts of Italy that I visited. If anything the meatballs and pasta were served separately at the non tourist type places. Old world Italian food has more regional varieties, and more versions/variations of lesser known types of pasta beyond spaghetti, cappellini, linguine, ravioli, spaghettini, fettucine, penne, lasagne, cannelloni, macaroni, large shell, rigatoni, ziti, gnocchi (examples of the more commonly seen pastas at American Italian places).

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Also eggplant or chicken or veal parmigiana....is that American Italian? Ditto for Fettucine Alfredo (aka cream sauce heavy tasting pastas)?

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Loved Mama Leone's! Too longo ago to remember what that meal consisted of exactly, but it was like small portions of a huge multi-course of finesse, refinement, that was upscale American Italian, but way better than anything American Italian I've had ever since.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: K K
                                                                                                                                                                                                              coll Jul 8, 2010 02:51 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                              To me, Italian American is made at home and served Sundays in the late afternoon, lasting well into the evening. I myself don't base it so much on restaurants, but what Grandma and Aunt Sophie and Aunt Lily made. One from Naples, one from Sicily, one from Abruzzi, so how could you call it all one cuisine? Spaghetti and meatballs (and sausage and braciole of course) for ordinary days, but much more variety on holidays. I was always told that they don't make meatballs in Italy, so that's the American part I guess. But there was always other meat in the pot too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I believe Fetticini Alfredo was invented in Rome. Although it was not creamy or heavy like some places here make it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: coll
                                                                                                                                                                                                                thew Jul 8, 2010 05:48 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                meatballs exist in italy (and almost every other culture in the world that has meat) they are called polpette. and in the south of italy, which is where american italian food is rooted, sometimes they are even served with pasta.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  coll Jul 8, 2010 08:05 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Rarely served with pasta, meat is always a separate course. I've seen them baked into casseroles like lasagna I think.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. pikawicca Jul 6, 2010 12:25 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I would say that the supreme exemplar of Italian American cuisine was the defunct Mama Leone's in New York City. I remember going there often when I was young, thinking it was the height of sophistication. It was wildly popular.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              136 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                anonymouse1935 Jul 6, 2010 01:07 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Oh my goodness no! I consider the local red sauce/gravy joints in Westchester to be Italian American. Olive Garden and Mama Leone's are/were deplorable, they cater to the un-Italian and the tourists.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Italian Italian can be had in Westchester, but it is pricey and special and the restaurants are not suited for a go-to weekly place. Please don't think Italian-Americans don't know and can't cook good Italian if they want to, as I do, but can't always afford what those in Italy get on a regular basis for a lot less lira.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: anonymouse1935
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  pikawicca Jul 6, 2010 01:19 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Everything was cooked from scratch at ML's; I don't believe anything is at OG.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    monavano Jul 6, 2010 01:43 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Which is why the Olive Garden Institute in Tuscany is so ironic. You couldn't pay the locals in Italy to eat at OG-I think they would be offended by the dishes, like their lunch portion of Manicotti Formagio which packs 33 grams of fat, and a whopping 2100mg of sodium!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I think of Italian, real Italian food, to be fresh, simple, uncomplicated, and not sauced and salted to death.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: monavano
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Perilagu Khan Jul 6, 2010 02:06 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the Olive Garden--or places like it--do quite well in Italy. Contrary to the opinion of many Americans, Western Europeans are not God-like beings from another planet. And when it comes to food and drink, most of them have rather pedestrian tastes just like most Yanks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        monavano Jul 6, 2010 02:13 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        That's surprising! It just seems to me that we Americans get chastised at every turn for bastardizing food from other countries. For instance, the term Italian American food is rather pejorative among foodies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: monavano
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          thew Jul 6, 2010 03:40 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          there is a great deal of reverse snobbery amongst americans who think it elevates their sophistication to pooh pooh american tastes while lauding european tastes. it is of course utter shite

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            monavano Jul 6, 2010 04:25 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            You know who really irritates me with this attitude? Tony Bourdain. He speaks about Americans as if he's embarrased to be one; as if we are all bourgeois, provincial and pedestrian. Xenophobes, really.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Contrast Bourdain with Andrew Zimmern, who explains, many times, to people from other cultures that Americans would not like such and such food, due to smell, or texture, or provenance. To me, it never comes across as American self-loathing, rather, as a way to explain the differences in how we may view food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: monavano
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              limster Jul 6, 2010 04:28 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              American tastes? It's just as diverse, and so is the cuisine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: monavano
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Chemicalkinetics Jul 6, 2010 04:33 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It is not self-loathing when speaking as an outsider.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  monavano Jul 6, 2010 04:36 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sure sounds like it is.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    pikawicca Jul 6, 2010 04:38 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I really don't think we need Anthony Bourdain (or anyone else) making excuses for what he perceives to be deficiencies in American's tastes in food. What about the almost total aversion that most Asians have towards cheese of every kind? Is this a cultural deficiency? I think not, simply a different food tradition. I'd love to see Bourdain try to get one of his Asian foodie friends to eat a ripe old goat's cheese. It's not going to happen.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Chemicalkinetics Jul 6, 2010 04:56 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      You need to narrow down the Asian list, because your buddy Anthony Bourdain will win your bet if he grab a Mongolian:



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        E Eto Jul 6, 2010 09:05 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't know about other Asians, but they love cheese in Japan. Including all kinds of chevre.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: E Eto
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          K K Jul 6, 2010 10:25 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Well I can speak for Hong Kongers....most folks in the 80s have been exposed to cheese one way or another growing up (as well as western food, thanks to British Colonial rule and the proliferation of HK style western and also numerous western restaurants). And yes they love cheese in Hong Kong too.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          - Kraft single slice cheddar cheese for cheese toast
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          - HK style spaghetti bolognese has melted cheese on top, cheese fans sprinkle a ton of Kraft Parmesian on top.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          - there's a market for high end Euro style cheese in HK, definitely at the fancy restaurants and the like. Can't have fine wine w/o cheese, or the dessert cheese platter. Ditto for fondue which I'm sure exists in HK
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          - cheese baked lobster, a well known Cantonese seafood restaurant prep
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          - Pizza Hut (and numerous other pizza joints) have been around for aeons.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -cheesecake is easily found with a ton of variations

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          to name a few.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          thew Jul 7, 2010 05:35 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          israelis, arabs, afghanis, pakistanis, indians, mongolians, etcetcetc are all cheese eating asians

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            bookhound Jul 7, 2010 05:59 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            My father was born and raised in Vietnam and he really enjoyed ripe cheeses. You're just wrong about this.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              MacGuffin May 27, 2011 12:13 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Quite a few fellow grad students in my program are East Asian and virtually none of them will go anywhere near cheese. Bread yes, cheese no. In fact, the only commodity they consume at our weekly wine-and-cheese parties is sliced baguette in huge fistfuls. I'm guessing this is due to the fact that nothing else on offer is of interest, which I find delightful because it means that I and others can take leftovers home. Grafton bandaged cheddar, anyone? :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: monavano
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            flaglinda Jul 30, 2010 12:49 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            How can anyone say amercians wouldn't eat this? Tastes are very diverse. I, for one, am an adventurous eater! I'll try anything once! How can you say you don't like something if you haven't tried it ?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: flaglinda
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              c oliver Jul 30, 2010 12:56 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I really, really agree with you. I'm kinda skeptical of one's Chow-worthiness if they won't even TRY something.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: flaglinda
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                monavano Aug 3, 2010 08:28 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I have no clue what you're referring to. Hints?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              sisterfunkhaus Jul 21, 2011 11:03 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              There are also a lot of foodies who forget that American dishes and dishes from other foreign countries get bastardized in Europe. EVERYONE adapts food to their own tastes and ingredients whether in France, Italy, England, or the U.S. The snobbery for snobbery sake is asinine. When I see the oneupsmanism among people who fancy themselves to be foodies, I can't stop cracking up inside. I just want to say, "Stop trying so hard."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3. re: monavano
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Perilagu Khan Jul 6, 2010 04:53 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I agree completely. If it's hyphenated-American the "sophisticates" consider it inferior. Screw 'em.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            4. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              italtrav Jul 8, 2010 06:58 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Comforting, in a -fox-and-the-grapes kind of way, but largely untrue. Europeans/Italians are in no way godlike, but at all levels of society they cultivate refined tastes in food that are largely missing in America. Ordinary conversation regularly, constantly comes around to food, its quality, the lst meal eaten and the meal to come. The highest accolade is "fresh," expressed with the regularity of a teenager on American Bandstand (sorry yung'uns) saying "I really liked the beat." In the USA, San Francisco comes to mind as a place where food similarly takes on a great importance for all socio-economic levels. Like anything else, what those around you find of importance will likely affect what you find to be important. In Italy, it's the quality of the food. In America, it's more generally about convenience, quantity and, frankly, cruder criteria—subtlety is not our strong suite.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Perilagu Khan Jul 8, 2010 07:03 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I note that the much reviled McDonald's (among other fast food places) does a smashing business throughout the culinary Holy Land of Western Europe. Sure, the French and Italians are generally more serious about food than Americans, but the difference is not as great as is usually supposed because at root their societies are far more similar to America's than different.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  italtrav Jul 8, 2010 10:43 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Even worse: I have been told that the McDonald's at Piazza di Spagna in Roma is or was once the highest grossing unit per square meter in the world. The Slow Food movement was founded explicitly in reaction to this exact restaurant. Among other explanations for the success of McDonald's (as well as Chinese restaurants) in Italy has been that Italian teens can find few better ways to signal rebellion than to reject mom's home cooking.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Be that as it may, I think you vastly underestimate the root differences between Italian and American society. To my mind, the differences at the level of taste (in all senses) are enormous. This is not to say that Italy is, in your sarcastic phrase, a Holy Land. But it is a place where good food is taken seriously at all levels of society. If you are so situated, try talking to Italian tourists in the U.S. and ask them for their opinion of the food they have found on their trip. I have done this many times—it is not an occasion for American self-satisfaction. I think you already know what the American tourists will say about the food they find in Italy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Perilagu Khan Jul 8, 2010 11:48 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The culinary options in your typical large, Ameican metropolitan area are well nigh endless. And if you don't know what you're doing, you can burn your fingers on some mediocre-to-lousy stuff. On the other hand, if you do some good research and talk to locals in the know, there is every reason one can eat every bit is well in America as in Italy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Curing my time in Italy, I dined exceptionally well, and hope to do so again some day. That said, I also had a couple of poor meals that wouldn't have been up to par in my hometown of Lubbock, Texas.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Bottom line, if you're a tourist who really cares about food, you will do well both in American and in Italy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      italtrav Jul 8, 2010 03:36 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      At one time I reviewed restaurants in Italy for a living, trying out some 750 or so over most of a decade. I have lived in several major metropolitan areas (now in NYC). My seat-of-the-pants estimate is that chances of getting a mediocre (not even lousy) meal in Italy are maybe 1 in 10. In the USA, in NYC, I'd put that up to 6 in 10. The Italians have a big advantage—there is virtually no corner of Italy where it is much of a stretch to come, easily, by fresh, mostly local produce, meats, wines, fish, cheeses, etc. Of late, things are much easier here in NYC, but it's a real challenge in, say, Albany, or Hammond, IN, or Scranton. Again, even the most anonymous industrial town in Italy will likely have a more-than-worthy restaurant, a great bakery, and an annual town festival devoted to whatever is their most characteristic dish. There is really just no comparison.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Chemicalkinetics Jul 8, 2010 04:09 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        "chances of getting a mediocre (not even lousy) meal in Italy are maybe 1 in 10... in NYC, I'd put that up to 6 in 10."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        That is a huge difference. Never thought of the difference being so dramatic. Essentially, you were saying that 9/10 restaurants in Italy are good, while most US restaurants suck.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          italtrav Jul 8, 2010 08:37 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "Essentially, you were saying that 9/10 restaurants in Italy are good, while most US restaurants suck."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          That's been my experience. Remember also that part of what makes the odds so bad are the all-pervasive chains. 700+ Olive Gardens and 700+ Red Lobsters, 1000+ Denny's and roughly a like number of TFI Friday's. 200+ Romano's Macaroni Grills, 680 Ruby Tuesdays in 44 states. And so on. This, apparently, is what America wants to eat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Isn't that part of why we're here on Chowhound, hoping to narrow the odds?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Chemicalkinetics Jul 8, 2010 08:45 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Good point about the chains.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Perilagu Khan Jul 9, 2010 08:06 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Again, I imagine there are chains aplenty in Western Europe. Not perhaps where the tourists dwell, but probably everywhere else. Chains are not just an American thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                greedygirl Jul 10, 2010 01:30 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                There are definitely a lot more of them in the US than in France or Italy, or even Britain, where i live.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: greedygirl
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Perilagu Khan Jul 10, 2010 04:01 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  And part of the reason for that is that the US is a much more spread out nation where people drive much farther and need convenient places on the highway at which to eat. It's not always easy to navigate a strange city in search of the mom n' pops.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  honkman Jul 11, 2010 06:37 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "Again, I imagine there are chains aplenty in Western Europe" - I don't know in which countries you traveled so far in Europe but none of them has even a comparable level of chain restaurants as the US

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                3. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  jgg13 Jul 12, 2010 11:53 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  You might want to do a per-capita on your numbers if you're going to claim that chains are the root of all evil here and why italy is god's gift to cuisine. It's not like I never saw a chain when I was in Italy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Hell, as far as their love of wonderful food goes, that explains why I saw such concoctions as sliced hot dog + french fry pizza slices when wandering the streets of Naples. Granted they were tasty, but hardly haute cuisine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jgg13
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    flaglinda Jul 30, 2010 12:56 PM


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Leper Aug 4, 2010 07:51 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Italtrav, Excellent point! We used Chowhound as our resource for a trip to Italy and experienced amazing food. I can say with great clariety the meal we had at Bucca De San Antonio in Lucca, Italy was the best meal I've EVER had. As a Chowhound, I never dine at chains and have found some excellent local Italian restaurants that could hold their own in the old country.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      sisterfunkhaus Jul 21, 2011 11:09 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I was put off by that figure until you figured in the chains. I can see that being the case. Heck, I could see it being 8/10 restaurants being bad. Those special places are a rarity.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Perilagu Khan Jul 8, 2010 08:30 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    You've obviously got a lot of meaningful experience under your belt (or over it ;)); I respect your opinion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      soupkitten Jul 9, 2010 06:37 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      to italtrav: i would respectfully submit that nyc has a great deal of awesome food & restaurants, but if your main criterion for meal quality is "fresh"-- well, uless you are quite wealthy and eating a fine dining meal nightly, there are better regions, cities and towns elsewhere in america for fresh and local food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      recently went to a local "nyc style deli" where at the end of the meal dh commented that it was indeed just like a very mediocre nyc deli-- and the last time he'd tasted parmesan cheese sauce from a can (like that which arrived on his plate), was in nyc. ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      to the phenomenon of the popularity of american fast food restaurants (particularly mcdonald's) in europe: i liked the pov presented by m. steinberger in this book:


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      in short, "it's the taxes, stupid."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        italtrav Jul 10, 2010 06:30 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Italy, too, has lost something of its luster—that's part of what Slow Food has been about there, publicizing threatened parts of its culinary heritage. Each year they put on a huge exhibition, the Salone del Gusto, so that producers and public can encounter each other. But neither Italy nor France is immune to the modern tradeoff between time and taste. It's just that we in the US have already gone so far down the road that taste has nearly been lost to sight.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Perilagu Khan Jul 10, 2010 04:02 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "It's just that we in the US have already gone so far down the road that taste has nearly been lost to sight."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I consider this a gross exaggeration.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            italtrav Jul 10, 2010 06:52 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Have you wandered through an ordinary suburban supermarket anytime recently? I have the impression at times that the fresh produce is there as a kind of window dressing, a loss leader whose job is really to sell canned soup and microwavable meals.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Where my mother-in-law now lives, in a reasonably prosperous suburb south of Chicago, it's largely a food wasteland. If she drives 5 miles (during about 6months of the year) she can find a farmstand. Go 15 miles or so on the expressway and there's a Whole Foods. Other than that, your choice is Jewel, Aldi, Food4Less, all filled with shiny, bland apples trucked in from WA, farmed fish that was taken out of water several days previously, bread "baked fresh on premises" (from commercial dough made elsewhere and full of "conditioners"), meats all packaged in plastic, cut from "boxed" beef (i.e., butchered somewhere central and delivered a couple of times each week—but they can order you a frozen rabbit). But there are hundreds of linear feet of cookies, sugared cereals, soft drinks, frozen pizzas, Prego/Ragù/Chef Boyardee (Now that's Italian!) tomato sauces and tubs of ready-made Jell-O for those who are too lazy to add their own boiling water to artificially flavored gelatin powders.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This, I submit, is run-of-the-mill, middle-of-the-road, normal and representative America. If I had to live where my mother-in-law does, I'd probably shoot myself.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            She survives, in large measure, because she puts about a third of an acre under cultivation each year and puts up a great many jars of tomato pulp and sauce, freezes broad beans and sage leaves and, until she was widowed, raised rabbits in the back yard. Her husband used to hunt, sometimes deer, but mostly game birds.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            So yeah, I think the U.S. palate has been largely destroyed already. You and I are at this point largely irrelevant rear-guard reactionaries—and I'm clearly a hell of a lot more cranky and depressed about it than you are.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              thew Jul 10, 2010 08:06 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              there's clearly a corporate dumbing down. but it isn't just you, and the people of italy, who appreciate food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                coll Jul 11, 2010 04:12 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                That's why Chowhound exists, to help each other search out good food, no matter how difficult that may be.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I know my neighbors are mystified that i go to the ethnic grocery stores in town, and to different farmstands for different items that each one specializes in. Anywhere I have to drive somewhere for work issues it always involves a stop or two at specialty mom and pops. Hopefully when their kids grow up, they'll have more time to shop and enjoy too, and they know they can ask me where to go. Because I know my older neighbors are very absorbed with good food and wine, it's their reward for getting through the tough years. It does take a little effort, but I can't imagine being satisfied just going to the closest supermarket and that's it. Have to say, more and more, plenty of people I know aren't either.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                monavano Jul 11, 2010 06:47 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                First rule of grocery store shopping- Stick to the perimeter!!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Recently watching Jamie Oliver in WVA, he visited a mom (obese) who had a freezer FULL of frozen pizzas. Nothing but brown food in her kitchen, not one bright phytonutrient-rich food to be found.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Why? Those pizzas were 50 cents each.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                So, so sad.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Perilagu Khan Jul 11, 2010 08:30 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  When were those halcyon days when everything was fresh, locally grown and downright delicious? Moreover, when was grocery store food not only fresh, locally grown and delicious, but also variegated beyond belief as it is now?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I submit that those days never existed. Moreover, I would argue that the putative decline in the quality of food available in grocery stores is exaggerated, and is more than made up for by the variety of products available.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The store in which I shop sells probably 200 products (including produce, meat and fish) that were nowhere to be seen in this part of the world 20 years ago. Factor in a significant growth in ethnic markets (Latin-American, Indian, East Asian, Mediterranean), and I can now cook dishes that would have frankly been quite impossible 20 years ago. Add products from the Internet (almost all produced in the US), and there simply is no comparison.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  But if we are seeking some culinary Utopia we are bound to be disappointed. I see no way for a nation to produce abundance, variety, inexpensiveness, and quality all in equal proportion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Italy has one approach, which has its advantages. The US has a different approach, which also has its advantages. Personally, I'm thrilled with the culinary scene in the US and would not trade it for what's going on in Italy or anywhere else. I eat very well, both at home and in restaurants, and am grateful for the opportunity to do so.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    pikawicca Jul 11, 2010 08:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I agree completely. Take something as simple as flat-leaf parsley: My mother had to grow her own; today you can find it in any supermarket. When we lived on the east coast, the only way to get artichokes was to have relative in CA ship us some. Now they're everywhere, too. The invention of overnight shipping has dramatically increased the variety and quality of fish that I can enjoy here in the Midwest.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ShepherdBGoode Aug 1, 2010 05:23 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      When a kid in PA in the 50s-60s, avocado was a special treat to ceremoniously shared around the table. Funny to go in the service, get stationed at San Diego, and find heaps of avocados in the mess hall, 3 meals a day. "Here, man, take one with you." And then to come back to PA a few years later to find that everybody's making guacamole.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      i'm kind of a locavore, but I dig that you can get fresh lemon grass at Lucky supermarket.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      jgg13 Jul 12, 2010 11:58 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Right on. I often say that the kids these days seem so much more sophisticated by the time they're adults because of the plethora of options available now that weren't readily available back then. Different cuisines in terms of restaurants, different ingredients more readily available in grocery stores, and the like. You mention the internet - simply having that information available in the form of recipes and such has been a big boon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        lapelosa Jul 19, 2011 02:50 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        That variety is deceptive, you know -- it's all based on various concoctions of corn and soy. It's the subsidies for corn and soy that make meat so cheap and produce so expensive -- which, I would hazard, is a major contributor to our obesity epidemic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        While the industrial system most certainly has its advances--the variety of produce that one would not otherwise have access to--I still think that eating according to traditional principles is not only more delicious, but also more healthy. Italians by and large eat much better than Americans, and by and large they are much less obese and sick. One can take advantage of the avocado, and skip over the premade avocado dip.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I also think that some of it is lingering puritanism: the whole "eat to live, not live to eat" phenomena. There's this idea that being too concerned with food is somewhat unseemly, that there are better things to think about. But food is a major contributor to quality of life.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And yes, I did spend two years in Italy while in the military, so I have some basis of comparison. Much, much easier to find good food in Italy than in the United States. While an appreciation of good food preceded my time in Italy, Italy definitely contributed. I'm in Omaha, and I've had to made significant effort to find local farms selling good food. I do co-ops and try to avoid the farmer's markets, because I know that everyone there hikes up the price to not compete with the other farmers who really do need to sell at that steep price to financially survive. At least, that's what I've been told by someone who sells kale there (he felt bad for charging so much, and I knew him in another context). I need to financially survive too! Deals are to be found, but it's not easy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        My first post here, btw!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: lapelosa
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          tatamagouche Jul 20, 2011 06:00 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Good start! Welcome.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: lapelosa
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            sisterfunkhaus Jul 21, 2011 11:17 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I have found that the more I live to eat--the more I think about food--the healthier I am becoming. I could eat a crappy frozen diet meal to "live" or I can take the time to prepare a 100% from scratch healthy meal that gives me fantastic leftovers for the next day. I get an enjoyable experience in the kitchen and a really good, healthy, meal made from scratch. We recently discovered making homemade yogurt and homemade jam from in season fruits to flavor it with. I never really liked yogurt until this. We discovered homemade yogurt b/c I live to eat. I am always reading websites, message boards, etc... As a result of living to eat, we have both lost weight and feel great. Living to eat is the way to go as long as you are eating really good, high quality food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          six dower Jul 12, 2010 06:28 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Well stated! Bravo!! I agree 100%

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            sisterfunkhaus Jul 21, 2011 11:11 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I can't tolerate the produce at ANY of my local markets. It has gotten so bad that I only go to a specialty market and the local produce shed at the farmer's market.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              sisterfunkhaus Feb 2, 2014 01:28 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I am so thankful to live in a city where we have a small chain which more fresh food than canned and super processed. A lot of the produce is local or organic, and they have at least 12 kinds of apples, more during apple season. I had 15 different choices in tomatoes today. They butcher all of their meat too. I can't imagine having to live without that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    thew Jul 8, 2010 05:23 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    this site is mostly americans. americans, from every level of society, who take food seriously.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If italian tourists took the time to eat in good american restaurants they would have nothing but good things to say about the food. If americans only ate in the tourist traps along vio venetto or wherever they are, they might not find the great italian food either.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    there is crap italian food. there are bad italian cooks. there are italians who wouldn't know a good bolognese from a bad one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    get over it already

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      italtrav Jul 8, 2010 08:23 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Not a matter of getting over anything. Clearly, you bridle at the mere thought that the general level of gastronomy in Italy is markedly superior to the U.S. and want to just split the difference. There is, of course, bad italian food. But, based on long and extensive experience of both countries, I'm sticking by my assessment that there is a great deal more bad food here in the U.S. of A., for the reasons I listed earlier. And if you gave me the choice between an tourist trap on Via Veneto vs. one in or around Times Square, I'd choose the Italian one based on the odds. I'm not happy about that, but it's the plain truth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Let's leave aside the tiny fraction of America that is here on Chowhound. Of course there are people in America who care and who can tell the difference. But part of the reason we have such a comparative dearth of good restaurants is because the American public largely could care less and would be hard-pressed to discern the difference between good and bad food. Why should they—their tastes have been formed by the debased foodstuffs that make up the greatest part of what we eat in America? Or haven't you heard the very popular opinion that McDonald's fries are fantastic—from people whose palates know only that sweet=good (those McD fries are sprayed with sugar solution at the fry factory before being frozen)? Or have you never run across the legions who will turn up their nose at fresh lemonade, because it doesn't taste like Country Time? Or the vast hordes who think that Prego spaghetti sauce on Prince spaghetti with Kraft "parmesan" is anything but disgusting? Yet this is, to echo the dismay of John & Karen Hess, the Taste of America.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        coll Jul 9, 2010 02:55 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm enjoying reading your posts, but McDonald's fries are sprayed with pure potato starch, not "sugar". Now the ketchup you put on them, that's another story.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: coll
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          italtrav Jul 9, 2010 05:59 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "t McDonald's fries are sprayed with pure potato starch, not "sugar""

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Many thanks for the correction. Good to know that the potato starch is pure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            coll Jul 10, 2010 01:15 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Potato starch is made purely from potatoes, as are french fries obviously. What do you think it is, cake batter? (I'm assuming sarcasm in your post, correct me if I'm wrong) By the way you can get organic potato starch too, if you're a real purist.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: coll
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              italtrav Jul 10, 2010 06:21 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yes, sarcasm. Not directed at you, but at the potatoes coated in the stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                coll Jul 10, 2010 06:33 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                They only do it to keep them crispy, and it works well. By the way, I rarely eat french fries, in case I sound like an enthusiast! In a way you're right, starch turns to sugar when you digest it, so between the potatoes and the potato starch, and the fry oil (whether trans fat or not), I tend to avoid them myself.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          thew Jul 9, 2010 06:10 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          what i bridle at is this faux sophistication people think they have by bad-mouthing american food. There are 300,000,000 Americans, over 3 million square miles. That's 50 times as many people over 100 times the area of italy. SO in absolute numbers there is more bad food, and more bad restaurants , and more people who don't care about food than in italy. also more good food, good restaurants, and people who know good food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          again - not every italians nonna was a good cook. not every italian cares. you make these sweeping broad brush statements, that i think are way off from the truth. I think there are plenty of italians who buy the equivalent crap in their markets and plenty of americans who do not dine at mcdonalds. plenty of italians who do eat at mcdonalds and plenty of americans who know good food, not just a tiny minority.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          as to you examples - ever have a hamburger in italy? for the most part they suck rancid cow's ass. and from my experience in italy i find the attitude towards food far more provincial and far less global than in the United states. They know italian food, and little else.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Chemicalkinetics Jul 9, 2010 06:44 AM


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I agree with you that there are people who get a kick out of making fun of American foods (or anything American really).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In italtrav defense, he didn't say there are more good restaurants in Italy in the absolute numbers. He stated there are more good restaurants in Italy in the relative numbers (in percentage).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              thew Jul 9, 2010 06:50 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              im just not sure i agree. and as i said , there is certainly less variety in restaurants there. exotic food in italy seems to be if a roman restaurant serves food from pugia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                italtrav Jul 9, 2010 06:03 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Absolutely true. My Italian mother-in-law (from the extreme north of Italy) never ate pizza until she came to the USA at about 25 (in 1959). But I'm not really sure why a provincial preference for one's traditional food is supposed to be a black mark against the culture, let alone against the quality.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  six dower Jul 12, 2010 06:34 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I would bet that most of the people that disagree with you have never set foot outside of the states...and if they have, it has been very minimal! I have noticed that most people that stay within their living area are not exposed to different tastes=very small palate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: six dower
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    thew Jul 12, 2010 08:02 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    sorry six. i can't speak for others, but i've traveled extensively. all of western europe, some of eastern europe, a lot of time in asia, a little north africa , a little in south america, the caribbean, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    how much did i win in that bet?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  jgg13 Jul 12, 2010 12:03 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  one of the worst dining experiences i ever had was at a chinese resto in rome

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jgg13
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    lagatta Jul 12, 2010 04:30 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm not surprised, but now a significant Chinese community is emerging in Rome south of Termini railway station. And I've had some nice "Chinese-Italian" food in Perugia, where many former foreign students have settled in, opening restaurants and other small businesses, making this small central Italian city remarkably cosmopolitan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I agree with italtrav about the relatively high quality of Italian food (within the Western world - think there are some even more stellar places in Southeast Asia. But more than 20 years ago, after a stay in Paris, coming from Montréal, what I did miss was the availablily of food of any quality - and I DO NOT mean "haute cuisine" - from other cultures.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: lagatta
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      jgg13 Jul 12, 2010 06:20 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      as it happens, it actually was in the termini area, but it was 6-7 years ago, so who knows

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: jgg13
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      MacGuffin May 28, 2011 06:36 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A colleague told me that the worst pizza he ever had was in a kosher restaurant in Rome (FWIW, I don't think he's Jewish). Maybe "ethnic" is something you want to avoid in The Eternal City? ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MacGuffin
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        tatamagouche May 28, 2011 08:58 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        An old boyfriend of mine insisted that Chinese-Italian was loads better than Chinese-American. Since I never wanted to "waste" an Italian meal on Chinese food (any more than I'd want to do vice-versa if I ever get to go to China), I never discovered for myself if he was right.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MacGuffin
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          thew May 28, 2011 03:14 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          roman cuisine is HEAVILY influenced by the cuisine of the Roman Jews

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            tatamagouche May 28, 2011 03:36 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Carciofi fritti, mmm...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: MacGuffin
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            mbfant Jul 21, 2011 09:50 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The kosher restaurants in Rome are not the greatest, but there is some very good kosher pizza al taglio, though of course it has no cheese. In the interest of research some months ago I had a slice with beef sausage and broccoli at Bocconcino Kosher, truly delish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mbfant
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              BobB Jul 21, 2011 10:27 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "though of course it has no cheese"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Interesting - I live in a heavily Jewish neighborhood and the local kosher pizzeria here makes only veggie pizzas, no meat. I would think that the ability to make something as classically Italian as pizza Margherita would incline its Roman counterpart in the same direction.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Specialties like potato pizza aside, I think of cheese as far more essential to pizza than meat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: BobB
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                mbfant Jul 22, 2011 10:27 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Most of the kosher pizza here has no dairy. I don't actually know any dairy kosher pizza, but there is a new dairy snack place (there is a kosher boom in progress), so that might be where to find it. The only thing essential to pizza is the crust.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: BobB
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  MacGuffin Jul 22, 2011 08:27 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "Specialties like potato pizza aside, I think of cheese as far more essential to pizza than meat."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'd be inclined to agree with you. Kosher cheese tends to be pretty awful, though, although I had some truly sublime artisanal cheddar a few years back that was certified. I served it to some observant colleagues who were blown away.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: BobB
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    thew Jul 23, 2011 07:27 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    of course - pizza is basically a cheese dish, not a meat dish. here in NYC, where we take pizza seriously, most is eaten with no topping other than cheese. I've always thought of excessive toppings as a sign that the pizza does not hold up on its own

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: mbfant
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    thew Jul 21, 2011 12:00 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    the only kosher pizza i had in rome was a cheese pizza

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      MacGuffin Jul 21, 2011 02:10 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'd think that it would be more likely to find a dairy kosher pizzeria than a fleishig one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MacGuffin
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        thew Jul 21, 2011 02:12 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        i would think so too. but my sampling size was one place, so......

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MacGuffin
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          lagatta Jan 26, 2014 04:20 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The only kosher pizza places I know here in Montréal, and in Paris, are dairy. I was at them because I was eating with friends who keep kosher.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: lagatta
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            MacGuffin Jan 26, 2014 04:48 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Same here in NYC although I disagree with thew that we still take it seriously here because it's a lot more difficult to get a decent slice in Manhattan than it used to be. Most pizza has cheese. Even the mozz-free sfinguini (the exception to Detroit's godawful pizza) I get when I'm visiting my folks in Detroit has parmesan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: MacGuffin
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      kjonyou Aug 22, 2011 02:22 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I have a Jewish friend that brags about his Italian Lasgana. It's decent, not great except for the qualtiy of cheese he uses. But I find it intresting when I mentioned making a Jewish pastry, it was like the sky was falling and only jews could make real jewish food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Not picking on the Jewish community specificly, I have seen this attitude several times form various friends and aquainteces. Basicly everyone here in America thinks they have some inborn skill to cook really good Italian food becuase they ate Spaghetti - Os as a kid. Simotainiously offended if anyone tries to make a recipe from thier own ethnic background. Of course, none of these people have even been to Italy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I guess making pizza as a kid with store bough pre-cooked pizza dough and sauce makes you an Italian chef in America : - l

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: kjonyou
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        thew Aug 22, 2011 05:11 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        i see this in every community - people from the community, whether jewish, italian, chinese, etc think people from outside the community couldn't possibly be able to cook their cultural cuisine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        and plenty of non-italian americans cook excellent italian food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: kjonyou
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          lagatta Jan 26, 2014 04:22 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Well, supposedly the people making kosher pizza in Rome are Italian Jews. It is a very ancient community that began before the destruction of the Temple. Though I'm sure nowadays there are workers of many other origins.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: kjonyou
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            MacGuffin Jan 26, 2014 04:57 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            One of my Orthodox friends makes lasagna when I come to dinner (I'm vegetarian). Mind you, it's okay and I appreciate his effort but in no way does it taste like anything authentically Italian (I'm not Italian but grew up in a red-sauce neighborhood), nor has he ever had food that isn't kosher. On the other hand, there's a woman named Leah who has a site called "Leah Cooks Kosher" and who runs a successful kosher catering service. She's an Orthodox convert, which totally blows your friend's most cherished notions. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    MVNYC Jul 9, 2010 07:24 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    How is it "faux sophistication" for one to suggest that the level of gastronomy is better in one country than the other? Especially someone with a vast knowledge of both countries in question. The fact is true that you can get good food in most countries in the world just that in some it is a lot easier than others. I agree that there are some people who love to bash American tastes to sound more sophisticated. There are also those Americans who cannot abide the fact that another country, region or people can actually be better at something than they are. It is a two way street and again it is best served with an open mind.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Having traveled throughout the US and Europe quite extensively I have found that there are good and bad places everywhere. However I will agree with Italtrav that it is MUCH easier to find a good restaurant meal in Italy than it is in the United States (not to mention a decent cup of coffee or glass of wine).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ioggstream Sep 16, 2010 02:09 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      > thew: There are 300,000,000 Americans, over 3 million square miles. That's 50 times as many people over 100 times the area of italy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Italy has 60M people and 116Ksqm ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ioggstream
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Paulustrious Sep 16, 2010 02:31 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I think the maths had a minor decimal point error.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ioggstream
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          thew Sep 16, 2010 05:22 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          theres a reason i abandoned my dreams of being a scientist

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          that said my actual points remain and i stand by them

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Paulustrious Sep 16, 2010 02:43 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          << again - not every italians nonna was a good cook >>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You betcha. I would go so far as to say 'Not Many'. The best accolade I can raise is 'competent'. Most old-school nonnas I have met they have a very limited range, do not venture outside of their own (often localised) cuisine and are loathe to experiment except by necessity.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          After stirring that pot, I await the vengence of the mamafiosi.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            bbqboy Sep 16, 2010 02:45 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Sounds like my beloved Midwest. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              c oliver Sep 16, 2010 03:00 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I resisted just typing LOL! But I bet you're right. There seems to be that romanticized notion that a grandmother, esp. an ITALIAN grandmother, is/was a great cook. I too wait with bated breath to see you ripped from limb to limb :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Bob W Sep 17, 2010 07:53 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If all grandmothers are great cooks, why are so many grandfathers skinny little guys?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Bob W
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Paulustrious Sep 17, 2010 08:25 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Because, by definition, they have grandchildren.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Paulustrious
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Cachetes Sep 26, 2010 06:33 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Ha! This reminded me of the conversations around my (Italian!) grandmother's kitchen table, where she and her sisters would discuss how Fanny's sauce was too oily and Maria's pepper cookies (excuse the translation - I'm not certain how to spell tarale [sp?]) had too much fennel, etc. All to point out that even the Italian grandmothers didn't think all Italian grandmothers cooked so well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                p.s. - my grandmother was a GREAT cook! :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Cachetes
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  bob96 Sep 27, 2010 09:42 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Great memory. Much of the food talk in our house could be exactly that--how Mary down the block uses too much oil, or Pauline doesn't really brown her meta before simmering in the ragu. Or how the canned peeled tomatoes in one batch of one brand were somehow better last year (how she remembered remains a mystery). So much of everything depended on dinner, as they say--happiness, personal value, family solidarity, and more--that no one did not take it all seriously.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Cachetes
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    mbfant Sep 27, 2010 11:48 PM


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mbfant
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Cachetes Sep 28, 2010 08:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      That's it, thank you!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Silverjay Jul 9, 2010 06:52 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I’ve lived much of my adult life overseas and now live in NYC and, while I disagree with your reasoning and examples, I completely agree on the general sentiment regarding the U.S. culinary culture and quality- especially with regards to restaurants. This was also a popular lament among my expat American friends. And many of my well-traveled non-American friends, who raved about food in other countries, consistently complained about food here. Chowhound is an oasis of people who actually love food, but most Americans are just people who love to eat. People like to color the argument that American food is stereotyped, and that might be true with regards to the quality of what's actually available. But sorry, as a food culture, this is the minor league. And this pays out, on a percentage basis, disappointingly when it comes to restaurant dining.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Silverjay
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Perilagu Khan Jul 9, 2010 08:10 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I would argue that Italian cuisine is brilliant and generally tops American cuisine, whatever that may be. But I remain unconvinced that the quality of restaurant food in Italy or France, for the matter of it, is significantly better than in America. I would also argue that any superiority to be found in those two European countries is probably more than negated by the overwhelming variety of choice to be had in America. Nobody can compete with the US in that category.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Silverjay Jul 9, 2010 08:25 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, quantity and variety are the usual compromised fallbacks in this discussion- as if the myriad of ethnic options around us are actually authentic and/or any good. This thinking is the typical reaction anytime quality differences are brought up and I think underscores what Americans ultimate care about.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      MVNYC Jul 9, 2010 08:27 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      If you are referring to foreign cuisines as variety you are most definitely correct regarding America. There are more "foreign" restaurants in the US. However outside of ethnic enclaves for those particular cuisines you are mostly going to find subpar food. Having a bad Japanese restaurant in Sioux City does not make it better than having a great Salumeria in some remote mountain region of Italy. So I do not think that variety trumps actual good food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I have had the fortune to travel quite a bit through rural and suburban Italy and have found that the restaurant food has been generally very good to excellent. I have also done the same through the US for business and pleasure and cannot say the same. It is actually quite difficult in some places to find anything other than the typical lineup of Applebee's, Chilis and Flingers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MVNYC
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Perilagu Khan Jul 9, 2010 01:24 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Frankly, if you are seeking an elite sushi experience in Sioux City, you are on a fool's errand. But that was never my point. What I'm saying is you can find a bewildering array of good-to-great ethnic food restaurants in every large metroplitan area in America, and if you do a little research, can find the same thing in most medium-sized American cities. My hometown has a population of ca. 235,000 people, yet it is renowned for its Thai food. Not sure an equivalent sized city in Italy could make an analogous boast.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        PS--When in Rome (or Sioux City) do what the Roman's do. E.g. skip the sushi and seek out the home cooking. You'll find the experience much more rewarding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          MVNYC Jul 10, 2010 02:28 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          My example of sushi in Sioux City was just an example pointing out that while diversity is good it does not mean that you are going to get good ethnic food. I stand by that. Yes you will find gems or regions that have one good ethnic cuisine but these really are not easy to find. Even here in NYC where you can find restaurants of a seemingly endless variety you have to sometimes search pretty hard and travel quite a bit to find the gems.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          When I travel I do seek out what the region is good for, the problem is that even when searching on sites like chowhound it is still somewhat difficult. Good restaurants are not sprouting everywhere you look.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MVNYC
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            limster Jul 11, 2010 04:46 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "you have to sometimes search pretty hard and travel quite a bit to find the gems"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            That's the fun part about chowhounding!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    pikawicca Jul 9, 2010 03:43 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Disagree with just about everything you say. Good food is very expensive in Italy. I've spent a lot of time there over the past 40 years, as well as in France and Germany. The Germans and the French both do a much better job of producing fresh, locally-sourced meals than the Italians. If you want to consider the lowest common denominator (which you seem to want to do), I'd rather eat low on the food chain in the U.S. than in Italy. I've certainly been served more sodden, fat-laden, old, food in Italy than here. I also appreciate our health codes, which preclude restaurants serving food that's been left out at very warm room temperature for hours.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      italtrav Jul 9, 2010 06:32 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      " Good food is very expensive in Italy. I've spent a lot of time there over the past 40 years, as well as in France and Germany. The Germans and the French both do a much better job of producing fresh, locally-sourced meals than the Italians"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Can't answer for Germany and haven't lived in France since the late 60s, but my impression is that both are good for raw ingredients and neither was all that economical. But whether or not the food is expensive is secondary to the original contention, which was that the vast majority of Italians generally care more about the quality of what they eat than does the vast majority of Americans, and that the general quality of restaurants in both countries reflects something of that. To the extent that italian food may be more expensive, I'm inclined to say that that, too, reflects something of the greater willingness of Italians to put their money where their tastebuds are.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      On another level, you will find that in Italy it is comparatively difficult to buy cheap stuff of other kinds as well. There isn't much like 99¢ shops, where you can run in a grab something that isn't very sturdy or likely to last. On the whole, most of the time, overall, Italians prefer to buy well-made things, even if the up-front cost is greater. As an New Yorker who grew up thinking that bargains are a natural right, I sometimes find this frustrating. But it is part and parcel of the Italian way of life.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        mbfant Jul 10, 2010 07:33 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Yo, Italtrav! So right about the bargains -- the main reason why my eastbound suitcase is always more stuffed than my westbound suitcase. It's full of Lands End turtlenecks, Duane Reade aspirin, and miscellaneous doodads that would cost a fortune in Italy, if I could even find them. I even buy coffee filters at Dags.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A few points, mainly not addressed to you, with whom I am in utter harmony.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Young Romans are now eating sushi with a vengeance. I am not judging, but am suspicious of the quality. Many of these young Romans would eat anything as long as (a) their friends do and (b) it's cheap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The only wood-burning pizza oven in Venice (at least a few years ago) was at the Cipriani hotel.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I love the super restaurants and ethnic dives of my native Manhattan (yay soup dumplings! yay pastrami! yay Danny Meyer!), and love to visit friends in New England in the summer and shopping with them at farm stands (yay corn! yay blueberries!). I love American food, in its many aspects. I do, however, draw the line at the super-processed imitation-type products some of my best friends fill their fridges with, to say nothing of those tomatoes bred so they'll bounce when they fall off a truck. Italy has processed food (though less), but more people probably think it's better to eat, say, less real butter than to use imitation butter so you can eat a lot of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Italian food is mainly not peasant food but urban food. This point is made convincingly in John Dickie's excellent book "Delizia!" People have no idea how poor Italian peasants used to be. Dickie also explains how Italian-American food evolved as a reaction to privation in the old country.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Without wishing to take anything away from anybody else's culture, I am pretty sure the world will concede that there is something special about Italy. May we stipulate a list that begins (for convenience) with the Pantheon, continues through Michelangelo, and ends somewhere around mozzarella di bufala? Many peoples had stale bread and tomatoes there for the taking, but it took the Tuscans to make pappa al pomodoro. Lots of people make noodles, but only the Italians make, and named, tagliatelle and strozzapreti. It took me a few years of living here, but I eventually concluded that it's foolish not to give the Italians the benefit of the doubt when it comes to handling food. I've also found it's easy to underestimate how different Italian food in Italy is from what we Americans think it is, even today with the new wave of Italian-trained restaurateurs. They still have to adapt to American taste and expectation, which is perfectly normal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The people, mostly Americans, who come to me to learn about the Roman approach to food are struck by numerous differences, including:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - adherence to seasonality
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - restraint in addition of ingredients and care in combination
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - unfamiliar varieties of vegetables
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - reading labels on containers of olive oil, pasta, balsamic vinegar in search of specific characteristics

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        and more of course.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mbfant
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          bookhound Jul 10, 2010 07:43 AM


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: mbfant
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            thew Jul 10, 2010 07:55 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            my mom makes lists liek this about why jews are special. my irish sis in law does the same for ireland. there is something special about everyplace

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mbfant
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              bob96 Jul 10, 2010 08:07 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Sempre brava! This has been an enlightening thread, and Maureen adds much to it. I have to agree that seasonality, restraint, product quality, localism, and the pull of tradition (some dare call it entropy), voiced everywhere as a devotion to "prodotti tipici e genuini" shape so much of Italian foodways. If young Romans are eating sushi in packs, this, too, shall pass, although Maureen knows better than most how uniform the Roman table can be. In all our travels, we've been most thrilled by the surprises, whether a stew of baccala, cauliflower, and pumpkin in a small hotel on the Cilento coast; the sight of a solo well-dressed businessman slowly devouring one naked ball of mozzarella in a Naples trattoria; or lunch at my cousin's table in Calabria, where on a sunny spring day we ate only local chick peas with a aide of wild asparagus, local soppressata, fresh pecorino, and the lovely whole wheat pane di grano of nearby Bagnara Calabra. There was a crate of brilliantly colored mandarini, picked along back roads, on the kitchen floor. My cousins are not farm people but small town physicians. Eating this way, with little comment, is one of the things they treasure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: mbfant
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                sisterfunkhaus Feb 2, 2014 01:52 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I've adopted all of the characteristic that you mentioned and eat much better as a result. It's smart to care about food quality, seasonality, etc... I've spoiled myself so much to a local tomato grower, who I only buy from in the summer, that I can eat nothing but Campari or expensive colorful cherry tomatoes off season. I can't stomach anything other than good cheese. I've lost a lot of weight as a result, but am glad.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                From reading and watching a lot of food travel shows, my impression is that people in Western Europe care far more about food quality. I can't wait to travel there simply for the food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. re: italtrav
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    nvcook Jul 8, 2010 09:51 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This argument is hard to get my brain around - look at the size of Italy compared to the United States. I cannot believe that in ALL parts of America convenience trumps all. For goodness sakes, I live in the middle of Nevada. I cook well and with the freshest ingredients I can find (including my own garden). It isn't probably going to be traditional Italian , but it is going to be pretty darn good. Y'all seem to be buying into quite a few stereotypes. This country is just to big to be pidgeonholed that way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: nvcook
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      monavano Jul 9, 2010 09:19 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Amen! To generalize about America is like lumping all of the Mediteranean together. As Reese Witherspoon said in Sweet Home Alabama, "People need a passport to come down here".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: monavano
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Silverjay Jul 9, 2010 10:15 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ..along with a shitload of Rolaids.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Silverjay
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Perilagu Khan Jul 9, 2010 01:29 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yep. That's what keeps the culinary panzies out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: monavano
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          lagatta Jul 11, 2010 06:31 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Well, "America" is actually far larger than the US.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      honkman Jul 11, 2010 06:31 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      No, I don't think restaurants like Olive garden etc. would be as popular in Europe as they are in the US. Food in general doesn't has the same importance in the US as in Europe. The US is the western country where people spend the least percentage of their salary on food. I also don't know any country in Europe where people eat some much "on the run" and don't care too much what they eat. It is pretty common in the US that people go once or twice per week shopping for food whereas in most countries people go every day or every second day shopping for food to have the freshest ingredients. That doesn't mean that there are many people in the US who care a lot about food and that there are also many people in Europe who don't care too much about it. But on average people in Europe are more interested in food and its quality.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: honkman
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        thew Jul 11, 2010 06:44 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        spending the smallest percentage of your budget on food does not mean you care less about quality. it means more of your earnings need to go other places, such as into health care, which most of europe has provided to a greater or lesser degree.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        people in the US also tend to shop less frequently because we live in a car culture, more than anyplace else in europe, and do all our shopping in one place. here in NYC where we do not have cars to the degree the rest of the nation does we shop far more frequently

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        and i saw plenty of chains outside the usa - febo in the netherlands, wimpys in england, a plethora in japan, others in germany.....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          honkman Jul 11, 2010 06:58 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "spending the smallest percentage of your budget on food does not mean you care less about quality." - I disagree. It's a clear indicator of how much people care about food. And I don't want to go too much into politics and urban myths but I pay less for my health insurance in the US than I would do in Germany.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "people in the US also tend to shop less frequently because we live in a car culture". Again I disagree. Here in California where I currently live a lot of people have many, many good supermarkets closeby but when you talk with them why they only use them once a week they always mention that it is not that important to get absolute fresh ingredients and that freezing stuff isn't bad for the quality.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "and i saw plenty of chains outside the usa - febo in the netherlands, wimpys in england, a plethora in japan, others in germany....." - Nobody said that there are no chains in Europe but by far not so many has here in the US

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: honkman
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Cachetes Jul 11, 2010 07:48 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Percentage of budget as a measure of interest in high quality food is silly. Wealthy people will often spend a relatively small percentage, even when purchasing the highest quality ingredients. And ask any poor, single working parent of two kids in daycare why they don't spend more on their food, and they'll likely laugh at you (and I am not saying that they don't/can't care about high quality food - creativity and thrift, not expanding the percentage they spend, is a more likely strategy to try to fulfill their interest in good food, if they have it).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Cachetes
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              lagatta Jul 12, 2010 04:35 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yes, but Western Europeans are also (on average) among the world's wealthiest people, like North Americans north of the Rio Grande.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Chemicalkinetics Jul 11, 2010 07:39 PM


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I don't think healthcare is the reason here. Most Americans have healthcare provided to them by their employers (private companies or public sectors). Those who are wealthy enough to buy their own healthcare would be in good position to purchase foods. Those who are poor have medicaid. Those who fall in between usually skip health insurance (which is the whole debate about millions of uninsured). So all in all, the population of which who "cannot buy decent foods because they have to buy individual health insurance" does not make up a huge percentage.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              mbfant Jul 12, 2010 09:27 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              There are way more chains in UK and Germany than in Italy, though the number is rising. Italian chains tend to be pretty bad too, though my only experience is at FCO, where I can never find anything decent to eat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: honkman
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              ShepherdBGoode Aug 1, 2010 05:59 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              How much of our eating habits are imposed by our conditions of employment? When you have 1/2 hour for lunch, Olive Garden is a bigass improvement over McD's, Jack, Carl's and the other greasy fried places that abound. You can run in, run out, and fool yourself that you ate a real meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ShepherdBGoode
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                lagatta Aug 3, 2010 08:53 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I guess it depends on the work you do and your physiology, but I wouldn't want a full meal on a half-hour lunch break. Too many calories, and I'd rather save money to spend on non-chain restaurant food and home-cooked food I can take the time to enjoy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Indeed, getting back to the original topic, while globalisation and the EU are changing this, many Italian workers still have longer lunch breaks so they can take the time to eat a real meal, slowly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Here I often see Italian (and Portuguese) builders eating very appetizing lunches - more calories than I need, but they are doing physical work, not typing all day on a computer. Good sandwiches, often a salad, always fruit - but probably packed by their wife ... before she heads off to her own job!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          paulj Jul 6, 2010 01:44 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Can I stir the pot a bit more with this quote?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "Buca di Beppo® is an authentic Italian restaurant ...Dishes enjoyed for generations in villages throughout Italy inspire our menu, giving Buca its authentic Italian fare. "

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Their serving sizes are large, but meant to be shared. You could order the whole sequence of courses (antipasti, pasta, entre, dolci etc).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: paulj
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            mpjmph Jul 12, 2010 08:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I went to Buca a couple of years ago for a wedding rehearsal dinner - it was better than some Italian restaurants I've been too, and worse than others. The thing I remember most was the wax bust of the Pope in a glass box in the middle of the table on a lazy susan to facilitate sharing...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mpjmph
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              linguafood Jul 12, 2010 08:43 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              OMG.... a wax bust of Ratze would definitely spoil my appetite --

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: linguafood
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                mpjmph Jul 12, 2010 11:03 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It was bizarre... This was soon after J2P2 passed, and the Ratze bust was fresh (for lack of a better word). It must have been a humid day when they swapped out the busts b/c there was condensation in the glass box - made it look like the Pope was breathing...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mpjmph
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  coll Jul 12, 2010 11:13 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Miracles do happen!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. ipsedixit Jul 6, 2010 12:04 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I would consider Olive Garden to be American Italian, though that certainly isn't inclusive of all American-Italian cuisine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        thew Jul 6, 2010 12:12 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        it is, but that would be like using mcdonalds as a typical steakhouse

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Chemicalkinetics Jul 6, 2010 02:27 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Please don't make fun of my favorest steak house please.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Alfred G Jul 11, 2010 01:57 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I would consider Olive Garden to be closer to garbage than American Italian. You can get decent American Italian in most mom and pop pizza joints.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Alfred G
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            anonymouse1935 Jul 13, 2010 04:11 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Spot on, Alfred G. Yes you can, especially in Westchester. One need never set foot in a chain, and with a very few exceptions, not of my own choosing, I never have...........and never will.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. t
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          tzurriz Jul 6, 2010 06:10 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Spaghetti with red sauce and meatballs as dinner by itself (or with a salad and garlic bread) is American Italian.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Penne with bolognese as a small portion amongst multiple courses is Italian.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Both are excellent, and really, I think the main differences are portion size and number of courses.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: tzurriz
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            paulj Jul 6, 2010 08:39 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Do, or rather did, all Italians eat multiple courses, especially at home?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Did the street ladies take the time to serve antipasta, pasta with their namesake sauce, fish, meat, cheese, etc? How about the charcoal makers and their 'eggs and bacon on pasta'? Or poor who suffered from a niacin deficiency due to a diet of corn meal mush?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The abundance of meat in American Italian probably is an adaptation to available ingredients (and job opportunities). But I wonder whether those immigrants ever ate the 'real Italian' that we read about.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: paulj
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              tzurriz Jul 6, 2010 09:03 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              are you comparing modern American Italian with the food the Italian immigrants ate when they were fleeing starvation? That's not a fair comparison.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'm talking about modern American Italian and modern Italian. Big difference. Let's compare apples and apples please.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: tzurriz
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                thew Jul 6, 2010 11:58 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                i think he is comparing what the average or even poor italian eats compared with the idealized italian meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                just as the "typical" american family dinner might have a soup and main meat and 2 sides and dessert, but that does not mean every family eats like that often, or even ever.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: paulj
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                MandalayVA Jul 6, 2010 10:35 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                My cousin married a guy from Naples and the family ate very traditional Italian suppers--salad or antipasto, a pasta dish, a meat main course sided with vegetables, then dessert or fruit and cheese and coffee (the older kids got served coffee, the younger ones hot milk with a little coffee). No huge portions or second helpings. Also no English spoken at the table. When I was a kid I thought it was cool to say "Grazie" and "Scusarsi" and "Delizioso!" Alberto was positively horrified at what he described as "the troughs of pasta" served in Italian-American restaurants and he could go positively apopletic about pizza. If they ate out, it was any cuisine other than Italian. He only trusted Italian meals made by his mother, who came to New Jersey once a year, my cousin and later on his daughters.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Offhand story--my husband and I ate at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco a few years ago. After a great meal the waiter came up and asked how everything was. I said "Delizioso, grazie." The waiter's eyes widened and he happily said "Napoli!" Apparently after thirty-some-odd years--and sadly twenty-some-odd years after Alberto died--I still speak my extremely limited Italian with a Naples accent thanks to Alberto patiently correcting my accent at those long-ago dinners ...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. m
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Maximilien Jul 6, 2010 05:57 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Me think the early immigrants did not have direct (easy, immediate) access to the products they used to have locally before coming to America, so they tried to substitute with local produces that did not really replicate the original flavours.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              but it does not matter to the clients because it was done by italian, so it must be as authentic as possible because they did not know better, for most, they do not have a "real" point of reference to which to compare what they are eating; for example, I've never eaten "real" China chinese food, so what I eat is as authentic to what real chinese food is until I go to China and eat there.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. limster Jul 6, 2010 05:36 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It's complicated....a fairly high level of sweetness is a characteristic of many real Shanghainese dishes, and an integral part of the cuisine, so sweetness is not a factor that rules out real Chinese food (for example). The differences aren't going to be clear cut, but a combination, especially when Chinese or Italian actually refers to many diverse cuisines, rather than a monolithic style.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: limster
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Maximilien Jul 6, 2010 05:48 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "It's complicated...."


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Maximilien
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    jgg13 Jul 12, 2010 11:45 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Shouldn't that be "It'sa compluhcated"